September 29, 2009 - Three Democrats in the Senate Finance Committee joined with all 10 Committee Republicans on Thursday to defeat an amendment to the Baucus health care bill, voting in favor of pharmaceutical industry interests. Those three Democrats—Committee Chair Max Baucus (MT), Thomas Carper (DE), and Robert Menéndez (NJ)—received an average of $197,591 from pharmaceutical manufacturing interests (January 2003 - June 2009), 4.2 times as much as the average of $46,585 received by the 10 Senate Finance Committee Democrats voting against Big Pharma.
The amendment (pp. 117-118), offered by Bill Nelson (D-FL), would have closed the Medicare Part D coverage gap, allowing Medicare to purchase drugs for low-income seniors at the same price that Medicaid pays for the drugs. These terms were not part of the deal that the pharmaceutical industry made with the White House earlier this summer; closing the "doughnut hole" and enabling price parity between Medicare and Medicaid would cost pharmaceutical manufacturers more than the $80 billion Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) agreed to earlier this year. The White House deal has been controversial, not only because it bypassed Congress, but because PhRMA promised to run ads in support of the bill if terms such as those proposed in the Nelson amendment were not included. According to the Pharma Times, "speaking before the vote, PhRMA president Billy Tauzin warned that the industry’s continued support for the Finance panel legislation would be 'contingent on a good bill.'" Tauzin served in Congress between 1980 and 2005; he became head of PhRMA on the same day he left Congress.
The 10-13 vote was largely along party lines, with all 10 Republican committee members voting "No" on the Nelson amendment, meaning they voted to uphold PhRMA's deal with the White House. Baucus, Carper, and Menéndez—the three Democrats that joined with the Republicans in voting "No"—received an average of $197,591 in campaign contributions from pharmaceutical manufacturing interests between January 2003 and June 2009, 4.2 times as much money as the average of $46,585 that the 10 other Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee received. Baucus is chair of the Senate Finance Committee; Menéndez represents New Jersey, still home to one in seven pharmaceutical jobs in the United States; Carper represents Delaware, the home of AstraZeneca's domestic operations, a large Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical manufacturer.
|Campaign Contributions from Pharmaceutical Manufacturing to Democrats in Senate Finance Committee|
|Senator||Vote on Nelson Amendment||Contributions (1/2003-6/2009)|
|Debbie Ann Stabenow||Yes||$39,134|
|Average received by "No" voters||$197,591|
|Average received by "Yes" voters||$46,585|
Campaign contributions data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics' OpenSecrets Open Data. Date range of contributions is January 2003 through June 2009. Contributions to Sen. Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign are omitted. Votes are taken from C-SPAN's coverage of the markup on September 24, 2009; the floor debate is at 141:40 to 201:28 minutes and the vote is at 201:28 to 203:28 minutes.