June 4, 2012

VIDEO: Republicans Bashing Obama For Drug Lobbyist Deals Don’t Want To Fight The Industry Either

VIDEO: Republicans Bashing Obama For Drug Lobbyist Deals Don't Want To Fight The Industry Either
Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX)

Yesterday, House Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee released a trove of documents that detail how the drug industry — through its powerful trade association PhRMA — was able to win all sorts of concessions in President Obama’s health care law.

The documents show how top White House officials bargained away policies to the group. Here’s one example of an e-mail from Nancy DeParle, who headed the White House Office of Health Reform, writing to a chief PhRMA lobbyist. She promises that the White House will oppose allowing Americans to purchase cheaper drugs from Canada in return for the drug industry’s support for the health care bill:

Yes — I pushed this to everyone (Messina, Rahm) is in Egypt with POTUS but Phil Schrillo, Dana Singlser and I made [the] decision, based on how constructive you guys have been, to oppose importation on this bill.

There’s nothing wrong with the House Republicans probing Obama’s secret deals with the pharmaceutical industry. On the contrary, the American public should know when powerful corporations are able to make secret deals with the government to win opposition to popular policies like drug reimportation which polls have shown up to 77 percent of Americans support.

But there’s a problem with the House GOP investigation, lead by Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX). The Republicans leading this investigation aren’t actually opposed to PhRMA using its political clout to write our laws.

Last March, my colleague Lee Fang and I talked to Burgess about how special interest deals like the PhRMA negotiation undermine democracy. Burgess actually praised PhRMA’s role in  health care negotiations, saying that what they did “was on the whole positive.”

We challenged him about similar deals with PhRMA that the GOP made in 2003 when passing Medicare Part D that also barred drug reimportation. “Reimportation would’ve killed people by the thousands!” Burgess absurdly claimed about Americans purchasing Canadian drugs.

FANG:  – the PhRMA deals.

BURGESS: Please, it wasn’t limited to PhRMA.

FANG:  Of course, of course. AHIP (America’s Health Insurance Plans)

BURGESS: SEIU was there. What did they get in return? They had nothing to offer up. They were just simply there as a taker, they are not bringing anything to the table. At least PhRMA came and negotiated in good faith. Said look, “You’ve got a problem with the donut hole, we will fix that.” With PhRMA money. Not government money. But with PhRMA money. So you might argue that that was uh, something that they did that was on the whole positive. […]

FANG: Radical transparency both for Medicare Part D special deals and health reform special deals, wouldn’t that at least solve part of the problem [of secrecy]?

BURGESS: Well, it might. But Medicare Part D is what eight years old. The health care law just happened.

FANG: We have the deficit because of it. We still live with that, right?

BURGESS:  I would disagree on that.

FANG: You don’t think drug reimportation or negotiation for drug prices would’ve saved money?

BURGESS:  Drug reimportation would’ve killed people by the thousands, and you know that!

Watch it:

At the time, I cited former prominent Republican Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s support for drug reimportation, but Burgess did not want to argue the point further. It should be noted that pharmaceutical companies and health product companies are the congressman’s second-largest donors.

In a recent interview about his investigation into the White House, Burgess asked, “As far as it goes that PhRMA has every ability to be down there and advocate on its own behalf but should they get the ability to write the law in exchange for their not opposing the law?” In March, his answer was apparently yes. Now, when he has a chance to use the investigation to bash Obama, the answer is no. It’s unfortunate that the House Republicans appear to be so insincere about seriously investigating how corporations extract special favors from the government.