Blue Dog scumbag Kurt Schrader, one of the most blatantly anti-working class Democrats in Congress, represents a nice blue district in Oregon (Trump only got 43.9% of the vote there and the PVI Is D+2). I've been heartbroken to see solid local progressives take Schrader on and be defeated-- and on the same day that the district voted for Bernie! There are 7 counties in OR-05 and in the 2016 primary, Bernie won all 7:
• Benton- 61.2%
• Clackamas- 51.5%
• Lincoln- 53.7%
• Marion- 53.0%
• Multnomah- 57.0%
• Polk- 54.5%
• Tillamook- 53.8%
Schrader, then busy with a project he was consumed with: trying to wreck Social Security and Medicare, won the same day-- beating Berniecrat and former state legislator Dave McTeague-- 72-28%. Last year, Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba, another outstanding Berniecrat, managed to hold Schrader to a "mere" 68.8% win. Schrader and Gamba are facing off again this cycle and you can contribute to Gamba's campaign here. Why should you? I spoke with Gamba, a strong advocate for fair prescription drug prices, over the last couple of days and he told me that "As usual for congressman Schrader, this bill is pure smoke and mirrors. It does almost nothing to significantly reduce criminally overpriced, lifesaving prescription drugs, but it gives cover to others in Congress who are sold out to the pharmaceutical industry like he is. His personal millions are tied up in big pharma, so you can be sure that he will be doing everything he can to lie to the American People about how this bill protects innovation. The only thing Schrader's bill protects is obscene corporate profits for this industry... Schrader serves no one but the corporations that fill his coffers. His latest vote against any American that depends on pharmaceuticals to survive is only the latest in a long string of votes or bills that serve no one besides the millionaires that run corporations. His own personal wealth comes from big Pharma and he is rabidly loyal to them. The people of Oregon's fifth congressional district, and really, all Americans, deserve someone that will actually represent them. If we all keep electing millionaires to Congress, we can't expect much of an improvement."
And... this morning, we heard from William Rivers Pitt about a very specific reason to help defeat Schrader this year-- unless you're a big PhRMA tycoon yourself. Pitt wrote that "Yesterday afternoon, a trio of conservative Democrats joined every Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, blowing a $600 billion hole in President Biden’s plans to reform Medicare and prescription drug purchasing by way of the Build Back Better Act. Their efforts ultimately failed thanks to some deft maneuvering by the speaker of the House, but the betrayal happened in broad daylight nonetheless. Those three Democrats, you see, had 'concerns.' As it turns out, so do I.
One of the culprits, Democratic Rep. Scott Peters of California, is the top House recipient of campaign donations from the pharmaceutical and health care industries. His San Diego district is home to thousands of research and drug development workers. His wife, Lynn Gorguze, is president and CEO of Cameron Holdings, “an investment firm whose portfolio company provides manufacturing and packaging for pharmaceutical companies,” according to Andrew Perez and David Sirota of The Daily Poster.
A second culprit, Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon, enjoys similar campaign financing largesse from the pharmaceutical and health care industries. His net worth is pegged around $8 million, at least a portion of which came by way of an inheritance from his grandfather, who was “vice president and director of biochemical research and development at Pfizer,” according to The Oregonian.
…And the penny drops, literally. It’s more than campaign money for these two. It’s in the family. That would explain why they voted against their own president and party to derail a series of reforms that are massively popular not just with Democrats and the general public, but with Republican voters as well. Even Donald Trump tried to jump on this particular bandwagon, not because he thought it was right, but because voters like it so much.
Peters and Schrader did not cast these votes in self-defense, to be sure. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) maintains a list of “frontline” Democrats who are vulnerable to defeat come 2022, and neither Peters nor Schrader made that list. In fact, both of them-- along with the third “no” vote from yesterday, Rep. Kathleen Rice of New York-- hail from very safe districts.
More to the point, the Democrats who face tougher races in 2022 strongly support the reforms that were voted down, because these reforms are so popular in swing districts. If those “frontline” Democrats don’t have these reforms to vote on, they are made more vulnerable.
After the vote, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, came out swinging. Declaring that “the pharmaceutical industry owns the Republican Party and that no Republican voted for this bill,” Sanders went on to say that, “there is no excuse for every Democrat not supporting it. At a time when the drug companies are charging us by far the highest prices in the world, Congress must demand that Medicare negotiate prices with this extremely greedy and powerful industry.”
“The pharmaceutical industry has spent over $4.5 billion on lobbying and campaign contributions over the past 20 years and has hired some 1,200 lobbyists to get Congress to do its bidding,” Sanders continued. “They are the most powerful industry on Capitol Hill. Nonetheless, the American people are demanding that Congress stand up to them and finally lower the outrageous price of prescription drugs by requiring Medicare to negotiate with the pharmaceutical industry. Now is the time for Congress to show courage and stand up to the greed of the pharmaceutical industry. The American people will not accept surrender.”
Sanders has been spoiling for this fight for just about the full term of his political life, and he’s not wrong about the strength of his long-despised opponent. “The drug industry has spent years donating to political campaigns, lobbying members of Congress, and developing allies in the business community,” reports The New York Times. “They are now urgently leveraging those relationships. PhRMA announced a ‘seven-figure’ advertising buy on Wednesday, and published an open letter in several Washington publications, adding to television ads running on national news programs and football broadcasts. It’s a playbook that other powerful health lobbies have used.”
Fortunately, there is more than one way to skin a cat in Washington, D.C. After the PharmaDem betrayal in the Energy and Commerce Committee, Speaker Pelosi was able to get the House Ways and Means Committee to advance the same package of Medicare and drug pricing reforms to the House floor, where they will join the rest of the bill for the fraught road ahead. Peters, Schrader, Rice, every Energy Committee Republican, along with Pfizer and its pals, found themselves outflanked for the moment.
There is a vein of bright, shining irony shot through this whole debacle. After Joe Biden became president, the amen corner that is the corporate “news” media fell over themselves voicing warnings of how his legislative agenda would be foiled because of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, “The Squad,” and the Progressive Democratic Caucus in general. Even the slightest bit of static between that cohort and the speaker’s office elicited howls of, “OOOOO, IT’S ON NOW, DEMS IN DISARRAY!” Hardly a day went by without some talking head grimly predicting a progressive uprising against Biden’s agenda.
Flash forward to the debate over the most consequential piece of legislation in generations, and it has been the progressives offering the steady, guiding hand. They have shown their teeth when necessary, and may do so again if there is a concerted effort to decouple the budget reconciliation bill from the infrastructure bill, but they have been striving to shape the legislation and usher it forward.
Instead, the process is threatened with collapse because of a pack of conservative Democrats beholden to greedy pharmaceutical companies and polluting coal barons. Bob Dylan was right: Money doesn’t talk, it swears.
This morning Data for Progress released a new poll on Biden's Build Back Better proposals and, unlike Schrader, Peters and Rice, the overwhelming majority of likely voters-- and especially Democrats-- agree.
Let me call your attention to one aspect of the polling-- Medicare drug price negotiation, which is the specific part that our 3 villains tried to kill in committee. 73% of voters support it and just 15% oppose it. "[A]llowing Medicare to negotiate the cost of prescription drugs," wrote the pollsters, "is one of the ways that the plan is paid for. We tested whether likely voters support the use of this proposal as a revenue raiser for increased social spending. We find that likely voters support this by a margin of +56 points. By margins of +82 points, +53 points, and +28 points, Democrats, Independents, and Republicans support this, respectively."
Peters and Schrader are multimillionaires and work in Congress for the benefit of their own class and against the working-class. Schrader especially has been doing this year after year after year. He recently was one of the only Democrats to vote against raising the minimum wage-- typical Schrader. Interestingly, the pollsters found that "By a +37-point margin, likely voters say they would be more likely to support a lawmaker in Congress if that lawmaker votes to raise taxes on the wealthy to fund increased social spending. Looking at responses broken out by partisanship, we find that Democrats, Independents, and Republicans report they would be more likely to support a lawmaker that does this by margins of +68 points, +33 points, +5 points, respectively. Arguments about not raising taxes on the wealthy are not especially persuasive. We find that a majority (61 percent) of likely voters say that we should raise taxes on the wealthy so that they 'pay their fair share' and that likely voters are not intimidated by threats that the wealthy may move their money abroad. A majority of Democrats (78 percent) and Independents (58 percent), along with a plurality of Republicans (46 percent), all support raising taxes on the wealthy." 78% of Democrats, 56% of independents and 42% of Republicans want to raise taxes on the wealthy, even if Schrader, Peters. Rice and other reactionary Blue Dogs and New Dems do not. It's up to us to follow through by supporting candidates who are challenging them. You in?