I wanted to wish everybody a very Merry Christmas. Typically, I try to keep a politically correct tongue - however, in my opinion, political correctness has really gotten us into the mess that we're in. That said, there has been very troubling legislation that has passed from the House and Senate and now passed onto the President. More specifically, Pharma indemnity is now law.
President Applauds Congress for Passing Defense Appropriations Bill
I applaud the Congress for passing legislation to fund our troops who are fighting the war on terror in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. This funding will help us continue to hunt down the terrorists, pursue our strategy for victory in Iraq, and make America more secure. I look forward to signing the bill into law.
What the president does not mention in the 'making of America more secure' - is that in the bill, Senator Frist slipped language into the bill indemnifying manufacturers from their products (drugs/vaccines, et. al) that can harm, disable and/or kill the American people. The arctic drilling was widely focussed on, and that amendment was pulled from the bill. The environment in Alaska is now safe - Americans in the US however, are now not. What the president also fails to mention is that he was the #1 recipient of contribution funds for the 2004 election, bringing in over $1,000,000.00 from PHARMA. http://www.secretwebsites.com/say_no_to_drugs.htm - For those that believe I'm slamming Republicans, I am not - it just so happens those mainly responsible are Republicans - but, there are a few democrats as well.
Again, here are the 38 senators that voted this bill in, with a conflict of interest with ties to the pharmaceuticals (stock holdings):
Allen (R-Va.), Bayh (D-Ind.), Bingaman (D-N.M.), Bond (R-Mo.), Boxer (D-Calif.), Brownback (R-Kan.), Burns (R-Mont.), Carper (D-Del.), Coburn (R-Okla.), Cochran (R-Miss.), Conrad (D-N.D.), Crapo (R-Idaho), Dayton (D-Minn.), DeWine (R-Ohio), Dole (R-N.C.), Ensign (R-Nev.), Feinstein (D-Calif.), Frist (R-Tenn.), Hatch (R-Utah), Hutchison (R-Texas), Inhofe (R-Okla.), Isakson (R-Ga.), Kerry (D-Mass.), Kyl (R-Ariz.), Landrieu (D-La.), Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Levin (D-Mich.), Lieberman (D-Conn.), Lott (R-Miss.), Reed (D-R.I.), Reid (D-Nev.), Roberts (R-Kan.), Stevens (R-Alaska), Sununu (R-N.H.), Talent (R-Mo.), Vitter (R-La.), Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Warner (R-Va.).
If you notice that your state/senator is listed above, congratulations - you just noticed that your Senator just screwed you over (don't expect a dinner - and remember this on election day). If you think that PHARMA does not run this country, think again. PHARMA has just proven that they can buy and even own Congress and the President. With all the hype on "protecing america against the war on terrorism" - today, America has just been taken hostage by its own government.
Read the below statemement from Dem. David Obey (WI) - it is long, but, it is very much worth the read. There are few exceptions to those in power who I believe are trying to do the right thing for their constituents and America - this gentleman below is one of them
House Committee On Appropriations,
David R. Obey (WI-07), Ranking Member
For Immediate Release
Contact: Kirstin Brost
December 22, 2005
Obey Statement on Defense Appropriations Correction Bill
A Shameful End to a Shameful Congress
WASHINGON -Dave Obey (D-WI),
Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee, made the following statement
this afternoon on the bill stripping the provision to allow drilling in the
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
(ANWR) from the Defense Appropriations Conference report:
"Mr. Speaker, reserving the right to object:
"More than a year ago, when Mr. Lewis was elected Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, he came to me and asked if we could have an understanding that we would express our substantive differences but still cooperate in moving bills forward in an orderly way once those differences had been expressed. We did that.
"Time and time again,
the Minority was denied the opportunity to offer different sets of priorities,
priorities that did not offer huge tax cuts for those who have the most in society,
paid for with cuts in education, health care, and worker protection for those
who have the least. Despite the fact that the rules of the House were used to
block our efforts to obtain on-the-record votes on a number of our alternatives,
Democrats continued to cooperate procedurally, even as we made clear our
differences on policy.
"The Republican Majority wanted to finish all of these bills by the end of the fiscal year, and we did not procedurally obstruct them because while we differed strongly with the values that lie behind their budget priorities, we respected the fact that they are in the Majority and we respect and revere this institution. But because of internal divisions between the Majority party - divisions within the House GOP caucus and divisions between House and Senate Republicans - the fiscal year ended with the Labor-HHS bill and the Defense appropriations bill that represent 67 percent of the discretionary spending in our budget bill still being hung up in the legislative process.
"Now in the closing
days of this Congress, the Republican Leadership has decided to use the must-pass
Defense appropriations bill to force down the throats of the American people
a number of wholly unrelated gifts to special
interests. They decided to hold funds for our troops hostage in order to force Congress into removing protections against oil drilling in ANWR. To make room for their tax giveaways, they even imposed a second round of cuts to education, health, worker protection, and even imposing a $4 billion cut in military spending.
"Senate action yesterday has corrected one provision inserted in the bill by abuse of power - the strong-arm attempt at drilling in ANWR - and for that I mildly applaud the Senate. I led the opposition to ANWR's inclusion in the Conference and I am happy that the Congress was not blackmailed into accepting it.
"But frankly Mr. Speaker, continuing under my reservation, ANWR was not the biggest problem with the Conference report. The biggest problem is that it shortchanges our economic future by refusing to make adequate investments in education and it cruelly neglects to strengthen support for programs that help provide critical health care services to people who desperately need them. But we have lost that fight. This Congress has made the decision to cut critical health, education, worker protection, and social service funding by $3 billion below last year's level. What I find to be so gutless about Congress' performance on this bill is that those cuts could not pass the Senate on a roll call vote, so the Majority party had to arrange for their Senators to duck this vote and hide from accountability by arranging for the bill to be passed without a roll call vote. That means the Majority party has denied critical help to families most in need of help, but has not had the courage to forthrightly defend their votes to the people affected in the public arena. This bill makes that problem $1.4 billion worse for those programs and because of the across-the-board cut, it makes other ill-advised cuts in critical funding for the FBI, local law enforcement, and it even cuts an additional $4 billion out of the defense bill. If I could do anything to change that, I would. But it is clear that the die is cast.
"Continuing under my reservation Mr. Speaker, there is a second outrageous problem with this bill. The Majority has turned the proposal to prepare for a flu pandemic into a giveaway to the pharmaceutical industry.
"When the President
requested $7 billion to begin a much belated crash program to develop a new
generation of vaccines and antiviral drugs to combat a potential flu pandemic,
the Republican Majority responded by cutting it in half. When I asked Senator
Stevens in Conference why we shouldn't fund the rest of the Administration's
request so that it was clear that the government had a long-term commitment
to the development of needed vaccines and antivirals, he responded that because
liability protection language for manufacturers was not being adopted, long-range
funding should be withheld. The Conference Committee ended its work with an
understanding, both verbal and in writing, that there would be no -- I repeat
no -- legislative liability protection language inserted in this bill. And because
the Majority told us it did not want any compensation program for victims to
come out of the discretionary portion of the budget, no funding was provided
for that either. But after the Conference was finished at 6pm, Senator Frist
marched over to the House side of the Capitol about four hours later and insisted
that 40 pages of legislation - which I have in my hand - 40 pages of legislation
that had never been seen by Conferees be attached to the bill. The Speaker joined
him in that insistence so that, without a vote of the Conferees, that legislation
was unilaterally and arrogantly inserted into the bill after the Conference
was over in a blatantly abusive power
play by two of the most powerful men in Congress. We then discovered that this language provided all sorts of insulation for pharmaceutical companies and that this insulation applied not just to drugs developed to deal with the flu, but in fact applied to a far broader range of products.
"In essence, the provisions allow the Secretary of HHS to issue a declaration that has the effect of almost completely prohibiting lawsuits in state or federal courts by persons whose health was injured against manufacturers and various others for compensation for injuries caused by the use of "covered countermeasures." That determination would bar lawsuits against a wide range of "covered persons" involved with the countermeasures-including manufacturers and their suppliers, distributors, state and local governments and their employees involved with use of the countermeasures, medical personnel prescribing and administering the countermeasures, and so forth. This is very broad power indeed to ban lawsuits. Unlike the language requested by the Administration, the Division E language is not limited to products to combat a flu pandemic. Rather, it applies to any drug, vaccine, medical device or other products useful in dealing with anything the Secretary considers to constitute a public health emergency or that could constitute an emergency in the future.
"Although a rationale
often offered for lawsuit protection is that it is needed to encourage manufacturers
to develop and produce new treatments, the protections of Division E are not
limited to new or experimental products. Rather, nothing in the language would
prevent the Secretary from providing protection against lawsuits to drugs that
have been on the market for
"Further, the language explicitly prohibits any judicial review, in either federal or state court, of the Secretary's decisions to grant immunity from lawsuits. If anyone believes that the power is being exercised too broadly, or even in violation of the law, they apparently would have no remedy other than asking the Secretary to change his mind or asking Congress to amend the law.
"Although proponents point to provisions of this language that make an exception and allow lawsuits in cases of willful misconduct, that exception is so narrowly drawn as to be almost meaningless. First, the provision defines "willful misconduct" as acts taken "intentionally to achieve a wrongful purpose", knowing there is no legal or factual justification, and in disregard of known or obvious great risk. Basically, Mr. Speaker, the only conduct that would permit a lawsuit under this definition is probably conduct so egregious as to be criminal in nature.
"However, even this highly restrictive definition of "willful misconduct" doesn't seem to have been enough restriction on lawsuits to satisfy the authors of Division E. They added yet another provision that allows the Secretary of HHS to promulgate regulations further narrowing the scope of actions that could give rise to a right to sue. Then, there's yet another provision that says if the conduct in question is regulated under the Food and Drug Act or Public Health Service Act, a lawsuit for willful misconduct can be brought only if the federal government has taken enforcement action against that conduct. Finally, the language makes various changes to the normal rules of civil procedure to add further obstacles and difficulties in front of a potential plaintiff. In short, as a practical matter there is virtually no right for anyone to sue about anything covered by a Secretarial determination under this language.
"In summary, the Administration asked for some very broad liability protections for manufacturers and others involved with countermeasures against pandemic flu - and the Administration's proposal was widely criticized as going too far. With Division E of the Defense appropriations Conference report, Congress would be providing even broader protection, potentially covering a wide range of drugs, vaccines and devices far beyond what is needed to deal with the flu.
"Further, this denial of the right to sue is more sweeping than provided in the case of childhood vaccines, or in the case of smallpox vaccine. In the smallpox case, manufacturers are protected by basically substituting the federal government as defendant-with the scope of potential lawsuits against the federal government narrowed but not eliminated.
"Now Mr. Speaker, I recognize that some sort of liability protection or indemnification that would be necessary and appropriate to encourage development and manufacture of some measures to deal with pandemic flu and I would support such reasonable language, language that has been reviewed by a Committee that knows what it is doing in a process that allows for public comments. But there are real doubts as to whether it needs to be this broad. Its worth noting that Sanofi Pasteur, our only domestic flu vaccine manufacturer, has already signed contracts with the federal government to make avian flu vaccine and has already delivered some lots, rather than refusing to proceed until legislation like this is enacted. Similarly, Roche has been supplying Tamiflu for the national stockpile and actively seeking contracts to supply more.
"The result of this legislative action was a provision in the pending bill that prevents anyone who is a victim of a faulty vaccine from being able to obtain compensation in the courts. It says that if you become seriously ill because of mistakes in the manufacturing, that you lose your right to sue for compensation, but you can seek compensation from the government. But guess what -- the problem is that no money was provided for that fund. So anyone who gets sick would have to lobby Congress to put money in the money in the fund before they can collect. Thus, people injured lose their right to sue, but are not guaranteed any alternative means of covering their medical bills, lost earnings and other costs.
"Mr. Speaker, the Committee system was created years ago to ensure that to protect the public interest, legislation would be carefully reviewed before it was placed before the body for consideration. But that protection was arbitrarily by-passed by the Leadership in both Houses.
"This is the second time that this Congress has supinely done the bidding of the pharmaceutical industry in the dead of night. The first time, a vote was held open for three hours while the Republican Majority twisted arms to create the complex and ridiculously confusing prescription drug bill that our seniors are now so desperately trying to understand - a bill that was ushered through this institution by over 600 lobbyists and that protected companies by preventing the government from even attempting to negotiate lower drug prices.
"If I thought that denying unanimous consent on this bill would force the Majority to eliminate that language I would object. But, Mr. Speaker, it has also been made quite clear to me that the Majority will not relent on the language that insulates drug companies. So Mr. Speaker, I want it to be clear that the action to insert this special interest language in the bill is in my view a corruption of the legislative practices of the House. When Congress returns in January, I intend to raise a question about the privileges of the House that are highlighted by this action because it has brought discredit to the House and should disturb every Member who serves here. No Member of Congress, no matter how powerful, should be able to unilaterally insist that provisions that were never discussed and never debated in the Conference should be slipped in to that Conference report without a vote of that same Conference.
"This is what happens when there are no checks and balances, when one party controls the White House, the Senate, and the House and respects no limits on its own use of power. We have been placed in the this position because the House Republican Leadership has sent Members home for the Christmas holidays with the message to the Senate that we would not be here even if the Senate changed the legislation the House sent. That was irresponsible and the country will pay the price. This institution will pay a price as well, in terms of diminished respect from the people we were elected to represent. Members on both sides know it and it is time to have a modicum of respect for the way we do the people's business.
"This is a shameful and shabby way to the end the worst session of Congress I've experienced in 36 years in Congress. I most reluctantly withdraw my reservation because lodging an objection at this point would simply delay the shameful inevitable."