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Drug industry clout reflected in Senate vote

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Kadie Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-24-09 03:21 PM
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Drug industry clout reflected in Senate vote
Drug industry clout reflected in Senate vote

By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, Associated Press Writer 9 mins ago

WASHINGTON Senators rebuffed an attempt to squeeze more money from the drug industry Thursday after two Democrats warned it would undermine the fragile political coalition pushing a sweeping health care overhaul.

The Senate Finance Committee voted 13-10 to reject an amendment that would have required the industry to rebate $106 billion over 10 years to the government for medications used by low-income Medicare beneficiaries. Three Democrats, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Tom Carper of Delaware, and Chairman Max Baucus joined Republicans in voting against the proposal.

Minutes earlier, Menendez and Carper warned that approval of the amendment could undermine support for the overall legislation. Not only are pharmaceutical companies major employers in their states, but the industry is also a leading backer of overhauling the health care system this year. The vote reflected the industry's clout.

The author of the amendment, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., had wanted to use the money to close the coverage gap in the Medicare prescription benefit long a policy goal for Democrats. But would have been on top of $80 billion in reduced fees the industry already agreed to in a deal with the White House and Finance Chairman Max Baucus. Senators said the White House lobbied against Nelson's amendment.

Carper said after the vote that the drug companies had not said they would have abandoned the deal if the amendment passed. But he added: "I know I would...I'd say, 'Take a hike.' "

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