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Parliamentarian strikes down Sen. Warnock’s insulin proposal

by Ezekiel J. Walker
Parliamentarian strikes down Sen. Warnock's insulin proposal
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Senate Democrats fell short of an effort Sunday to overrule a decision by the parliamentarian that effectively struck down a proposal sponsored by Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) to cap out-of-pocket insulin costs at $35 a month for people not covered by Medicare, according to The Hill.  

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the ranking member of the Budget Committee, sought to enforce the parliamentarian’s ruling that Warnock’s cap on insulin prices violated the Byrd Rule because it would set prices in the commercial market and therefore couldn’t pass with a simple majority vote.  

Senate Democrats insisted to vote waiving the procedural objection to put Republican senators on record, including Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), the most vulnerable member of the GOP conference, on the record as opposing a popular proposal to lower insulin prices.

The Senate voted 57-43 to waive the procedural objection against the insulin price cap but Democrats scored a symbolic victory when seven Republicans voted with the Democrats: Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska). All 43 “no” votes came from Republicans. 

“We’re going to force them to vote no and put them on the record,” said one Democratic senator before the vote, explaining the political strategy ahead of a vote lawmakers knew ahead of time was going to fail.

In Washington, D.C., party lines are rarely crossed.

After months of discussions among U.S. Senate Democrats about getting a legislative package through the chamber, senators on Sunday passed a measure addressing Democratic policy goals, including health care, climate change and energy.

The chamber approved the Inflation Reduction Act in a 51-50 vote split along party lines; Vice President Kamala Harris delivered the tie-breaking vote.

The vote marks a significant victory for President Biden after more than a year of courting his party’s wary moderates and watching putrid poll numbers reflect the American people’s dissatisfaction with his job performance.

However, when votes with such life-changing impacts are voted on by party lines it stands as a reminder of the sharply divisive times we are living in.

When essential votes such as the PACT Act are cast in the spirit of pettiness and political one-upsmanship, it reflects on those Republican Senators who voted against aiding our veterans, but it also speaks volumes of the voters who will relentlessly support those very Senators without a moment’s consideration. When Senator Ted Cruz can leave for Cancun in the middle of a grid-freezing Texas winter, when Senator Josh Hawley can “white power fist” Capitol insurrectionists, when Senator Richard Burr can collude with his brother-in-law about stocks before the market dropped in March 2020, it speaks to the wild wild west mentality present in the GOP.

Despite the many controversies clouding Republican leaders, much like former President Trump, it seems there is no amount of corruption or treason that can dissuade the majority of Republican voters.

These same voters will likely not even know, remember, or care that each of their Senators voted against the passage of historic and crucial legislation that will make the most significant federal investment in history to counter climate change and lower the cost of prescription drugs. Yet, if a single member of their Senate voted in agreement with Democrats, they would surely be lambasted and castigated by their colleagues.

Groupthink cannot control the direction of the country. Strictly voting on party lines has real world impact, like the prices of vital medicines such as insulin to continually cost more here than any other developed nation by far.

Senate Health Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said, “Thirty-seven million people in our country have diabetes, and it’s absolutely wrong that many of them cannot afford the insulin they need to live,” she said. “I’ve heard from people in my state who risk their life and ration insulin to make ends meet, all the while drug companies are jacking up prices.”

“The cost of insulin has tripled over the last decade,” she said.

Democrats won a partial victory, however, because the parliamentarian allowed Warnock’s $35 insulin cap to apply to Medicare beneficiaries, which could influence prices in the private market.

“The parliamentarians’ rules are not self-enforced,” Warnock said. “So, only when we don’t do what 20 other states have already done, many of them red states, is if folks here decide to put politics in front of the people.”

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