Critical Condition

GOP: Deal Us Out?

Last week, ten Democratic Senators failed to blow up the White House-PhRMA deal in the Senate Finance Committee. Senator Baucus, recognizing the danger to the White House of the amendment passing, prevailed upon Ranking Member Chuck Grassley and the Committee Republicans to join three Democrats and preserve the deal. Now the Huffington Post reports that Kent Conrad wants to challenge the deal on the Senate Floor by bringing up an amendment calling for the reimportation of prescription drugs from other countries, which the White House apparently told PhRMA it would not pursue.

I have argued against the idea of reimportation on policy grounds, both for safety and for economic reasons. That said, I think this vote could put the administration in a tough spot. Some Senate Republicans do support the idea. In addition, some Republicans I spoke to questioned the political wisdom of Republicans voting in Committee to maintain a deal crafted by the Obama White House with the pharmaceutical industry. For their part, Democrats tend to support reimportation, and I can’t see them switching their position just to help the White House solve a political problem. This vote bears close watching when it comes to the Senate floor.