Bernie Sanders calls Donald Trump's bluff with prescription drugs bill

Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced bills to lower the price of prescription drugs

By Matthew Rozsa
January 11, 2019 7:00PM (UTC)
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Donald Trump; Bernie Sanders (Reuters/Mike Segar/AP/Alan Diaz/Photo montage by Salon)

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has introduced bills to the United States Senate with the goal of lowering prescription drug costs — beginning to make good on one of President Donald Trump's biggest campaign promises.

"If the pharmaceutical industry will not end its greed, which is literally killing Americans, then we will end it for them. The United States pays by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. This has created a health care crisis in which 1 in 5 American adults cannot afford to get the medicine they need," Sanders said in a statement, according to CNBC.


The three bills pushed by Sanders in the Senate and Democratic Reps. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Ro Khanna of California in the House of Representatives, would allow Americans to import cheaper drugs from other countries, require drugs in America to have prices roughly comparable to those of drugs in five other nations (Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom) and would allow the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate for lower prices for drugs under Medicare Part D. While it is unlikely that these bills would be passed by the Republican-controlled Senate — and Secretary of Health and Human Services has already sided with drug companies by tweeting on Wednesday that "we’ve seen some good behavior from companies such as Merck, Gilead, and Amgen, who announced lower prices for their drugs. We need to see more. @POTUS and I won’t stop until American patients see the lower prices they deserve." — the legislative efforts demonstrate a desire by Democrats to put forward a proactive agenda for America.

In a similar vein, the House passed two funding bills to reopen the federal government, although these were blocked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to The Hill.

"The last thing we need to do right now is trade pointless — absolutely pointless — show votes back and forth across the aisle," McConnell said in a statement explaining why he had blocked those bills. By blocking the bills, however, McConnell also demonstrated solidarity with President Donald Trump, who has made it clear that he does not want the government shutdown to end unless Democrats agree to help him fund a wall on the US-Mexico border.


In addition to being a sign that Democrats want to move legislation through Congress, Sanders' bills also show how the Democratic Party has moved to the left on the issue of health care reform. As The New York Times reported last month:

A Medicare-for-all bill drafted by Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, has been endorsed by 15 Democratic senators, including several potential presidential candidates: Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

In the House, Medicare for all is gaining new support with the election of a number of progressive Democrats. They include Sylvia R. Garcia of Texas, Jahana Hayes of Connecticut, Joe Neguse of Colorado, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Katie Porter of California, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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