E-Mails Reveal Obama Dropped Medicine Price Reducing Proposal at Behest of Lobbyists

On June 3, 2009, one of the drug industries lobbyists e-mailed Nancy-Ann DeParle, the president’s top health care adviser, with concerns about Obama’s liberals allies and their proposal intended to bring down medicine prices.

Ms. DeParle sent a message back reassuring the lobbyist that she and other top officials had “made decision, based on how constructive you guys have been, to oppose importation on the bill.”

President Obama, who had promised to air healthcare reform negotiations on C-Span, agreed behind closed doors to abandon support for the reimportation of prescription medicines at lower prices. He chose to side with an industry he had vilified on the campaign trail the year before over the middle class and poor’s best interests.

“There was no way we had the votes in either the House or the Senate if PhRMA was opposed — period,” said a senior Democratic official involved in the talks, referring to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the drug industry trade group.

Republicans see the deal as hypocritical. “He said it was going to be the most open and honest and transparent administration ever and lobbyists won’t be drafting the bills,” said Representative Michael C. Burgess of Texas, one of the Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee that is examining the deal. “Then when it came time, the door closed, the lobbyists came in and the bills were written.”

“Republicans trumpeting these e-mails is like a fox complaining someone else raided the chicken coop,” said Robert Reich, the former labor secretary under President Bill Clinton. “Sad to say, it’s called politics in an era when big corporations have an effective veto over major legislation affecting them and when the G.O.P. is usually the beneficiary. In this instance, the G.O.P. was outfoxed. Who are they to complain?”

Was it the GOP that was outfoxed or was it the American people?

In a statement, PhRMA said that its interactions with Mr. Obama’s White House were part of its mission to “ensure patient access” to quality medicine and to advance medical progress.

“Before, during and since the health care debate, PhRMA engaged with Congress and the administration to advance these priorities,” said Matthew Bennett, the group’s senior vice president.

When campaigning for president, Obama specifically singled out the power of the pharmaceutical industry and its chief lobbyist, former Representative Billy Tauzin, a Democrat-turned-Republican from Louisiana, as examples of what he wanted to change.

“The pharmaceutical industry wrote into the prescription drug plan that Medicare could not negotiate with drug companies,” Mr. Obama said in a campaign advertisement, referring to then President Bush’s 2003 legislation. “And you know what? The chairman of the committee who pushed the law through went to work for the pharmaceutical industry making $2 million a year.

“Imagine that,” Mr. Obama continued. “That’s an example of the same old game playing in Washington. You know, I don’t want to learn how to play the game better. I want to put an end to the game playing.”

So candidate Obama was against President Bush not allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug companies to lower costs, but President Obama killed a proposal that would have lowered the cost of medicine? Imagine that.


Obama Administration Caves to Oil/Gas Lobby

In a significant concession to the oil industry, the Obama administration has reversed course on new regulations for hydraulic fracturing.

Companies will, for the first time, have to reveal the composition of fluids used in the fracking process but only after they have completed drilling, instead of 30 days before a drilling well is started as the administration previously proposed.

The change to the rule followed a series of meetings at the White House with lobbyists representing oil industry trade associations and individual major producers like ExxonMobil, XTO Energy, Apache, Samson Resources and Anadarko Petroleum. The Office of Management and Budget reworked the rule to address industry concerns about overlapping state regulations and compliance costs.

Production of domestic oil and natural gas has surged in recent years as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have opened new fields and allowed renewed production from formations that had seemed depleted.

President Obama has strongly endorsed new production of domestic oil and natural gas as a boon to the economy and energy security. Under intense criticism of his energy policies from Republicans and oil industry officials alike, the president has recently eased government regulation of oil operations.

Last month he ordered the streamlining of federal regulation of natural gas drilling, while the Environmental Protection Agency revised air quality rules for oil and gas wells giving drillers extra time to comply and lowered their costs.

Industry officials praised both moves.

The Interior Department estimates that 90 percent of the 3,400 wells drilled each year on public and Indian lands use hydraulic fracturing, in which large volumes of water, sand and chemicals are injected under high pressure into shale rock formations to stimulate the flow of oil and gas.

The process has raised concerns all across the country about contamination of groundwater, well integrity and the treatment of the tainted water that flows out of wells during and after fracking operations.


Alabama Republican Senator Says Paying Teachers Less is A “Biblical” Principle

At a prayer breakfast in Fort Payne, Republican State Sen. Shadrack McGill defended a pay raise recently given to legislators, but said doubling teacher salary could lead to less-qualified educators.

Lawmakers entered the 2007 legislative session making $30,710 a year. The raise increased it to $49,500.

“You had your higher-ranking legislators that were connected with the lobbyists making up in the millions of dollars. They weren’t worried about that $30,000 paid salary they were getting,” McGill said, adding that lawmakers have to pay for their expenses out of pocket.

McGill said that by paying legislators more, they’re less susceptible to taking bribes.

“He needs to make enough that he can say no, in regards to temptation. … Teachers need to make the money that they need to make. There needs to be a balance there. If you double what you’re paying education, you know what’s going to happen? I’ve heard the comment many times, ‘Well, the quality of education’s going to go up.’ That’s never proven to happen, guys.”

“It’s a Biblical principle. If you double a teacher’s pay scale, you’ll attract people who aren’t called to teach.

“To go in and raise someone’s child for eight hours a day, or many people’s children for eight hours a day, requires a calling. It better be a calling in your life. I know I wouldn’t want to do it, OK?

“And these teachers that are called to teach, regardless of the pay scale, they would teach. It’s just in them to do. It’s the ability that God give ’em. And there are also some teachers, it wouldn’t matter how much you would pay them, they would still perform to the same capacity.”

“If you don’t keep that in balance, you’re going to attract people who are not called, who don’t need to be teaching our children. So, everything has a balance.”

Last year, McGill introduced a bill that would tie legislators’ pay to the average teacher’s pay, including benefits, claiming that teachers in Alabama rank fourth in the nation in average pay and benefits of about $65,000.

“The AEA [Alabama Education Association] would have a tough time with that because they don’t want people knowing that information,” McGill told an audience in Fort Payne in November.

Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City, said last week he would introduce a bill to raise the pay of teachers on the job for fewer than nine years by 2½ percent. Williams said the state can’t afford to give a raise to all teachers.

Rep. Craig Ford, D-Gadsden said that such a raise wouldn’t be fair to longer-serving teachers.

“They’re the ones that are having the hardest time paying their bills,” said Ford, the House minority leader.

In a statement later in the day, Ford said, “This proposal may be one of the most absurd things Phil Williams and the Republican supermajority have ever tried to pull.”

“I’m just a bill” never had it so hard…

This parody is pure genius. Youtube user Takepart does an excellent job breaking down the political process.