Aiming to lower the “outrageous” cost of prescription drugs, a group of lawmakers led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Tuesday introduced legislation that would allow Americans to import low-cost medicine from Canada.
Sanders was joined (pdf) in his chamber by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.), among others, while Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) introduced a companion bill in the House. A press statement from the lawmakers lists dozens of other supportive co-sponsors and advocacy organizations.
The Washington Post wrote of the bill:
The appeal is obvious; through cheap imported drugs, the U.S. would be able to take advantage of the government levers and regulation that other countries have used to bring down pharmaceutical prices. It’s a far more politically palatable way to attack the problem of soaring drug prices than opening up an even more contentious fight over whether the U.S. government should meddle directly in pricing—and it has had wide popular and bipartisan support, including from Hillary Clinton and President [Donald] Trump during the presidential campaign.
Indeed, Sanders called on Trump to make good on those campaign trail promises, declaring: “I say to President Trump: Talk is cheap. If you really have the guts to take on the pharmaceutical industry, tell your Republican friends in the House and the Senate to pass this legislation. Do it tonight in your address to Congress. Or admit to the American people that you were lying to them during the campaign.”
A similar attempt, tacked on as an amendment to the 2017 budget resolution, failed to pass the Senate earlier this year. Notably, Booker and Casey were both among the 13 Democrats to vote against that amendment, for which they were lambasted by progressives—including Sanders.
“The Democratic party has got to make it very clear that they are prepared to stand up to powerful special interests like the pharmaceutical industry and like Wall Street, and they’re not going to win elections and they’re not going to be doing the right thing for the American people unless they have the guts to do that,” Sanders said at the time. “That 13 Democrats did not is disappointing. I absolutely hope that in the coming weeks and months you’re going to see many of them develop the courage to stand up to [Big] Pharma.”
That time has come, apparently. And though journalist David Dayen said recent reporting has “soured” him on the importation approach (“You need to rip up the whole pharmaceutical supply chain,” he argued), he also admitted that Booker’s coming aboard the effort “shows movement power.“
Watch the lawmakers unveil the legislation at a press conference below: