Please follow along because, since it involves Congress and Sen. Steve Daines, it’s a convoluted story.
It all started when I opened today’s Missoulian to a full-page ad featuring Americans for Tax Reform praising Daines “for voting to stop price controls and protect the free market in Medicare.”
Americans for Tax Reform is Grover Norquist’s dark money PAC dedicated to basically reducing taxes to nothing. His famous quote, “My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub,” is the modern GOP’s mantra.
I was curious which bill ATR was referring to and began my Internet search. Since Daines is on the Senate Finance Committee, I started there and sure enough, up pops the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act. It would basically cap out-of-pocket prescription drug expenses for Medicare recipients.
It’s not really a bill but a committee “mark up” which will later get a bill number and eventually make it to the Senate floor (assuming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allows a vote on it).
The mark up passed out of committee on a 19-9 bipartisan vote. I spent the next hour trying to find the roll call (how did Daines vote?) but to no avail. Interestingly enough, on the second ring on a phone call to the Senate Finance Committee, I was talking to a pleasant young woman who told me that Daines had voted for the mark up.
Now I’m really confused. Why would ATR take out full-page ads in Montanan’s major newspapers thanking Daines for voting ‘yes’ on a bill that would “adopt price controls found in socialized medicine systems,” as the ad reads.
Fortunately, ATR’s very own website explains it:
During this markup, Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) introduced two amendments to oppose socialist price controls.
The first amendment removed the Medicare Part D inflationary rebate penalty in PDPRA. The second amendment prohibited the Department of Health and Human Services International Pricing Index from being enacted.
Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), John Thune (R-S.D.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), and Todd Young (R-Ind.) joined Sen. Toomey in supporting both amendments.
Unfortunately, both amendments failed to receive majority support with the Senate Finance Committee.*
These amendments would have removed two of the most important provisions in the act. So then, after being on the losing end of the amendment votes and seeing the writing on the wall — that the act would indeed pass out of committee — Daines votes for it.
He even touts its passage on his website.
“As Montana’s lone voice on the U.S. Senate Finance committee, I have made it one of my top priorities to lower prescription drug costs for Montanans. I worked hard to help craft this major drug pricing reform package, and I’m proud to have voted for it today moving it one step closer to reality.”
Here’s a synopsis: Americans for Tax Reform are thanking him for trying to derail the PDPRA by voting for amendments that would have eviscerated the act. They’re letting him know they have his back in the upcoming 2020 election by spending thousands of dollars on a disingenuous ad campaign, and will continue to support him as long as he votes for ATR’s interests.
And with forked tongue, Daines is implying he supports prescription drug pricing reform when he actually does not.
It’s our junior senator at his best: obfuscating his true intentions and bedding down with dark money interests.
* Here’s the language for the entire PDPRA which explains things like “the inflationary rebate penalty” and the “DHHS International Pricing Index.”