Last Wednesday, the Senate voted against a budget reconciliation bill amendment proposed by Senators Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar, which allowed the import of prescription drugs from Canada and other countries.
Channeling Game of Thrones‘ High Sparrow, Sanders responded by publicly attacking the thirteen Democratic senators who voted against the amendment, while potentially planting the seeds for dissent within the party for 2020 in the process.
“The Democratic Party has got to make it clear that they are prepared to stand up to powerful special interests like the pharmaceutical industry and like Wall Street, and they’re not going to win elections and they’re not going to be doing the right thing for the American people unless they have the guts to do that,” Sanders said after the vote.
Sanders’ comments were the battle cry for sites to lash out against the thirteen Democratic senators, among them, New Jersey Senator and likely 2020 candidate, Cory Booker.
One point you’re likely to see repeated on the multiple pro-Bernie sites shared in your social media newsfeed will be the $385,678 Booker has accepted from the pharmaceutical industry. What you won’t see mentioned in the same links is the $310,313 Sanders has accepted from the same industry during the 2016 election cycle. This isn’t a new dance move for Sanders.
The Vermont Senator famously attacked Hillary Clinton during the 2016 primaries for taking money from big oil… even though he did the same thing.
Booker, who previously made headlines and history earlier in the week when he testified against fellow Senator Jeff Sessions’ nomination for Attorney General, made it clear why he opposed the Amendment:
“Any plan to allow the importation of prescription medication should also include consumer protections that ensure foreign drugs meet American safety standards. I opposed an amendment put forward last night that didn’t meet this test.”
The Observer, a newspaper owned by recently announced Senior Advisor to the President-elect Jared Kushner, covered the recent vote with the opinion piece, “Cory Booker’s Bogus Excuse Betrays Progressives.”
The Huffington Post went with “Cory Booker And A Bunch Of Democrats Prove Trump Right On Big Pharma.” The headlines get more combative the more progressive-leaning the source is.
Interestingly, The Huffington Post piece lacks the understanding of how the Senate voting system even works.
Author Zach Carter writes:
“Twelve Republicans voted for the bill ― more than enough to ensure its passage. It failed by a vote of 46 to 52 because 13 Democrats opposed it.”
Carter’s language is misleading. The reconciliation bill itself can be passed with a simple majority vote (it ultimately passed 51-48). However, amendments can not.
Carter’s blaming of the Democrats for the amendment’s failure is bullshit. An amendment needs 60 votes to pass in the Senate. If all 13 Democrats had voted in support, it still would have failed at 59 votes.
The Sanders-Klobuchar Amendment was a small part of a 7 hour “vote-a-rama” (imagine spraying a Mogwai with a garden hose). The process is nothing new and happens when the Senate takes on a budget reconciliation bill.
The bill ultimately serves as a blueprint for Congress and is not signed into law by the President, which means amendments (like the one introduced by Sanders and Klobachur) are typically a non-binding symbolic vote.
Corey Booker was dragged through the streets of King’s Landing by the Sparrows, essentially over an amendment which would have no impact either way.
If the Democratic Party fails to come together in 2020, we won’t be struggling to get through the next four years. It will be eight.