Thursday, February 22, 2007

A Reality Check for Smith & Forten-Terry

by Kyle Michaelis
Freshman 3rd District Congressman Adrian Smith's very first floor statement was made in opposition to HR4, which would give the Medicare program the power to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for lower prices on prescription drugs. Smith stated:
As a representative of the great State of Nebraska, I rise in concern over H.R. 4. There are 208,040 Medicare prescription drug beneficiaries in the third district which I represent. Everyone wants to make sure that seniors get the prescription drugs they need at the lowest possible price. But, H.R. 4 will not reduce their prices, it will reduce their choices.
In his remarks, Smith also declared, "I disagree with H.R. 4 in a fundamental philosophical way." In that, he clearly was not alone, as both of Nebraska's elder Republican Congressmen - Jeff Fortenberry of the 1st District and Lee Terry of the 2nd - joined Smith in voting against it.

Still, HR4 passed as one of the cornerstones of the Democratic Congress' "100 Hours Agenda," ending up with unanimous support from the Democratic majority and even 24 votes from Congressional Republicans. Now, a new study has been released that should force every Congressman who voted against HR4 - including Smith, Fortenberry, and Terry - to rethink their position and to admit they were probably wrong.

The Washington Post reports:
Federal number crunchers said yesterday that the new Medicare drug benefit appears to be slowing the growth in national spending on prescription medicines because the drug plans are negotiating lower prices with drug companies....

The findings provide new fuel for the debate about whether Medicare could get better drug prices if the government negotiated with pharmaceutical companies. Many Democrats in Congress say it would, and the House has already passed legislation requiring the government to use its negotiating muscle. President Bush maintains that the current system achieves the best prices, and he has threatened a veto....

Several national polls have shown that a majority of the public believes government negotiations would hold down drug costs even more. A survey of 1,000 adults released yesterday by AARP, for instance, found that 87 percent of respondents -- including majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents -- supported allowing the government to use its bargaining power.
The American people support giving Medicare the ability to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices. It won't solve our entire health care crisis, but it's a common sense solution that is now supported by the evidence.

Democrats support the plan. Republicans support it. Independents support it. The only people who don't are the Republican politicians and their close friends in the pharmaceutical industry who have raked in such un-Godly profits on the back of the American taxpayer.

If this were really a question of doing what's right for the people and keeping prices low, Adrian Smith would come out right now and admit he was wrong about H.R. 4. But, this isn't a matter of finding practical solutions to real problems. No, he, Fortenberry, and Terry all disagree with a bill like this "in a fundamental philosophical way" because it would cut into the billions of dollars in giveaways to private companies using corporate welfare to boost profits and to line their own pockets.

They don't care what the American people think. They don't care what Nebraska voters want. They don't even care what the evidence shows. They have their "philosophy" of greed, and neither public opinion or the basic facts is enough to get through to them.

Smith, Fortenberry, and Terry only answer to power. On every day but Election Day, that power equates with money. That's why, at our next opportunity, we can't pass up the chance to deliver the one wake-up call that voters have left - an Election Day reality check our Republican politicians will never forget.

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