The House of Representatives began debating the “21st Century Cures Act” at noon on Wednesday, and a vote is expected to be called quickly. Most believe that the bill will pass through the House easily; Republicans like it because it cuts regulations, and Democrats like it because, well, it’s as good as they’re going to get. According to Politico, the bill will provide $4.77 billion to the National Institute of Health, money that can be spent on valuable research.
However, as with any bill (especially one like the 21st Century Cures Act, which weighs in at over 1,000 pages), there is a river of lobbying money flowing through the proposed law. The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics reported that 420 organizations have registered to lobby on the bill. Lobbyists for Blue Cross Blue Shield requested 32 changes to the bill, followed by lobbyists representing Roche Holdings (an international pharmaceutical company) requesting 27 changes. One of the clauses that Roche’s lobbyists took issue with regarded drug pricing under the 340(b) program, a federal standard that requires pharmaceutical companies to provide outpatient drugs at reduced prices.
As Trump prepares to take office, he has made strides in distancing himself from the Washington elite, such as turning away lobbying king Newt Gingrich and cutting ties with Chris Christie. However, if the 21st Century Cures Act proves anything, it shows that those in Trump’s “swamp” are still swimming strong. NBC reported that The Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America (which requested 24 changes) spent $24.7 million lobbying the bill. And this sort of money is unlikely to dry up after Donald Trump moves into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Earlier this week, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) slammed the bill, which is sponsored by Congressman Fred Upton (R-Mich), calling it “political cover for huge giveaways to giant drug companies.” The progressive Senator even went so far as to cry corruption, saying, “I will fight it, because I know the difference between compromise and extortion.”