Sen War­ren blasts drug ap­proval bill as ‘ex­tor­tion’

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren has de­liv­ered a fe­ro­cious at­tack on con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans and Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell over a med­i­cal re­search bill, put­ting fel­low Democrats on the spot by push­ing them to op­pose a mea­sure she said “is cor­rupt, and it is very, very danger­ous.”

As Con­gress be­gan the fi­nal stretch of its post-elec­tion ses­sion, War­ren said the 996-page mea­sure - a top pri­or­ity for GOP lead­ers and backed by the bio­med­i­cal in­dus­try - was rid­dled with pro­vi­sions that she called “a bunch of spe­cial give­aways” to big phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies. “They didn’t send us here to whim­per, whine or grovel,” she said on the Sen­ate floor about Democrats, us­ing the pop­ulist rhetoric that has given her one of her party’s high­est pro­files. “They sent us here to say no to ef­forts to sell Con­gress to the high­est bid­der.”

All but taunt­ing her own party, War­ren, D-Mass., said, “Repub­li­cans will con­trol this gov­ern­ment, but they can­not hand that con­trol over to big cor­po­ra­tions un­less Democrats roll over and al­low them to do so.”

She said the re­search bill would “le­gal­ize fraud” by re­duc­ing the sci­en­tific ev­i­dence the gov­ern­ment needs to ap­prove ex­ist­ing drugs for new uses. She said it would “cover up bribery” by ex­empt­ing med­i­cal com­pa­nies from pub­licly re­port­ing some pay­ments they make to doc­tors. Those pro­vi­sions, she said, out­weighed the “tiny fig leaf” of ad­di­tional money the bill pro­vides for bio­med­i­cal re­search and com­bat­ing abuse of ad­dic­tive opi­oid drugs. “I can­not vote for this bill. I will fight it be­cause I know the dif­fer­ence be­tween com­pro­mise and ex­tor­tion,” said War­ren, who some men­tion as a po­ten­tial 2020 pres­i­den­tial con­tender.

War­ren’s com­ments came with Democrats in the early stages of de­cod­ing their les­son from this month’s elec­tions. Hil­lary Clin­ton shock­ingly lost her White House bid to Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump and Democrats re­mained in the House and Sen­ate mi­nor­ity, mak­ing only small gains in each cham­ber.

War­ren is ex­pected to try tug­ging her party to­ward more pro­gres­sive poli­cies, while some more mod­er­ate Democrats are em­pha­siz­ing the need to ap­peal to the type of work­ing-class white vot­ers who helped Trump win Mid­west­ern states car­ried in re­cent elec­tions by Democrats.

The House plans to vote on the re­search leg­is­la­tion Wed­nes­day, with Sen­ate con­sid­er­a­tion ex­pected next week.

The mea­sure calls for spend­ing $6.3 bil­lion over the next decade, in­clud­ing $4.8 bil­lion for re­search at the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health. There is also $1 bil­lion for grants to states for drug abuse pre­ven­tion and re­search, and $500 mil­lion for the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion to ac­cel­er­ate drug and med­i­cal de­vice ap­proval pro­cesses.

To pay for that, the bill would cut a pub­lic health fund in Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health care law, re­duce some pay­ments made by Med­i­caid and Medi­care and sell oil held in the gov­ern­ment’s strate­gic petroleum re­serve.

War­ren said the bill ben­e­fits a Repub­li­can donor who backs con­tentious therapies that are sup­posed to re­gen­er­ate cells. She did not name the donor dur­ing her speech but said McCon­nell, R-Ky., has ac­cepted contributions from him. A McCon­nell spokesman de­clined to com­ment.

No. 2 Sen­ate GOP leader John Cornyn of Texas, on the Sen­ate floor as War­ren spoke, crit­i­cized her for mak­ing “a po­lit­i­cal speech” and launch­ing “per­sonal at­tacks” on sen­a­tors and called her com­ments “be­neath the dig­nity of the United States Sen­ate.” — AP

MANCH­ESTER, New Hamp­shire: In this Oct. 24, 2016, file photo, Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren, D-Mass. speaks at a rally for Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton at St. Anselm Col­lege. — AP

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