Senators Continue To Criticize Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist for Delay on Prescription Drug Reimportation Bills
Some Senate Democrats on Tuesday continued their criticism of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) for suggesting that prescription drug reimportation legislation will not be brought up for a floor vote this year, the New York Times reports. According to the Times, as part of a move to speed confirmation of Mark McClellan as head of CMS, Frist in March said that "the Senate will begin a process for developing proposals that would allow for the safe reimportation of FDA-approved prescription drugs."
However, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) said that process has "led to nothing" (Pear, New York Times, 9/15). Last week Dorgan said, "I believe there has been a commitment (from Frist) for us to at least try to have votes on reimportation." He added, "The fact is, I feel there is a commitment here, and my hope is that commitment will be kept in the coming couple of weeks."
But Amy Call, a spokesperson for Frist, said that the majority leader never promised to schedule a vote on the legislation this year, adding that Frist has followed through on his promise to begin the process of investigating the issue. She said that the senator hopes to continue that process, but only "if key safety concerns can be met, and (Frist) doesn't feel that they have been met."
According to The Hill, lawmakers who support prescription drug reimportation are seeking "all amendable vehicles" to which they may attach the reimportation legislation. Barry Piatt, a spokesperson for Dorgan, said, "It's going to happen," noting, "[E]verything that comes to the floor" is a possible vehicle (Marre, The Hill, 9/14).
In addition, Govs. Rod Blagojevich (D-Ill.), Craig Benson (R-N.H.) and Jim Doyle (D-Wis.) in a Sept. 10 letter to Frist wrote, "We are discouraged by recent media reports that you may not call prescription drug reimportation legislation for a vote in the U.S. Senate before lawmakers leave Washington, D.C., despite an earlier commitment to give your chamber an opportunity to take action on the proposal."
The governors added that a bill sponsored by Dorgan and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) "has bipartisan support from lawmakers in both chambers of Congress," noting, "A similar proposal has won approval in the House of Representatives three times. Now is not the time to slow the momentum for change" (Marre/Cusack, The Hill, 9/15).