Utah Sen. Mike Lee is defending his colleague Sen. Orrin Hatch for his controversial addition of language to the fiscal cliff bill that helps a top drug maker — saying the flap reveals how flawed Senate procedures are.
“I think what it reveals is the almost complete and total dysfunction of the Senate,” Lee said. “I received the fiscal cliff bill exactly six minutes before we were called to vote. We had no time to read this 153-page bill.”
On Wednesday, Vermont Rep. Peter Welch, a Democrat, introduced a bill Wednesday to remove the dialysis drug provision that benefits Amgen, a drug-company powerhouse, according to the Salt Lake Tribune
The provision allows kidney-dialysis drugs, including Sensipar — which is produced by Amgen — a two-year abatement on government price controls.
The bipartisan provision was added by Hatch and Democrat Max Baucus, the Senate Finance Chairman — both of whom received campaign contributions from Amgen and its employees.
“This special interest provision should have stood on its own merits with an up or down vote. It’s no wonder cockroaches and root canals are more popular than Congress,” Welch said.
“It creates an environment where members feel compelled to slip something in that ends up getting passed without ever seeing the light of day.’’
But Lee blames the controversy on the Democrat-controlled Senate, saying it allows for too little public debate and too few amendments to major pieces of legislation, the Tribune reports.
And Antonia Ferrier, a spokeswoman for Hatch, said the addition was part of an effort to lessen the use of over-prescribed drugs, according to the Tribune.
“This bipartisan policy was done to ensure that patients’, especially in rural areas, access to this life-saving treatment was not jeopardized,’’ she said. “That is what matters here.’’
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