RENO — Senate Republicans aligned with big pharmaceutical and insurance companies are standing in the way of the government negotiating cheaper drug prices for Medicare recipients, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday.
Reid, D-Nev., said he hasn’t given up this year on passing such legislation, which fell four votes shy of the 60 needed to bring the bill up Wednesday for consideration.
“I’m sorry to be so partisan, but every Democrat voted to move forward on this,” Reid said during a conference call from Washington, D.C.
The final vote was 55-42 because Reid changed his vote to “No” so that he can have the measure reconsidered. Aside from Reid, 47 Democrats, six Republicans and two independents voted to proceed with the bill while 41 Republicans opposed it, including Nevada Sen. John Ensign.
Reid said Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., who is recovering from a brain hemorrhage, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who missed the vote, would have backed the measure, so he’s only two short of bringing the measure back to the floor.
“We are making a little bit of progress,” he said. “We are not going to give up.”
Reid urged senior advocates to put pressure on Republicans blocking the measure. “With the networking you do around the country, just focus on Republicans who have not voted for this most logical thing to allow Medicare to negotiate for lower prices,” he said.
The Democratic leader said he won’t lobby any more Republicans to change their vote. “To be quite honest with you, that is not my job, to hustle Republicans. I’ve done my best. That’s for someone else to do that,” Reid said.
Asked whether he had tried to bring Ensign around, he said, “Next question.”
Ensign said the bill “would put bureaucratic red tape between seniors and their doctors.”
“Free markets help reduce costs by allowing competition. I voted against limiting choice and putting the government between doctors and patients,” Ensign said. “Government price controls lead to shortages and diminished quality of goods and services. Doctors should determine what prescription drugs are best for seniors, not the federal government.”