Elizabeth Warren Asks Democrats, “Which Side Are You On?” The Answer May Disappoint You. (Part II)

Last week, the House passed the 21st Century Cures Act, a pharmaceutical industry giveaway described by NPR as “ one of the most-lobbied health care bills in recent history.”

As I wrote after the House vote, the bill weakens the FDA, opening the door for quack medicine and fraud, and funds the meager medical research included (funding that could easily disappear in later appropriations mark-ups) by raiding the Affordable Care Act prevention funds, Medicare and Medicaid, and the Puerto Rico ACA exchanges.

Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), in a fiery speech last week detailing some of the bill’s major flaws, posed a question to her colleagues:

And when American voters say Congress is owned by big companies, this bill is exactly what they are talking about. Now, we face a choice. Will this Congress say that yes, we’re bought and paid for, or will we stand up and work for the American people?

The House made a clear case for the former, with a 392–26 vote (only 6 of the dissenting votes were on grounds akin to those of Warren).

And last night, the Senate cast its lot with “bought and sold” as well.

Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) teed the bill up for a cloture vote (a motion in this case to begin the formal debate on the bill), which passed easily 85–13. Some of those 85 might ultimately vote against the Cures Act, but that opposition will be feigned, rather than real. A vote for cloture means you want the bill to go forward.

9 out of the 13 NO votes came from the Democratic caucus, mostly from the progressive wing of the party:

Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

Joe Manchin (D-WV)

Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

Tom Udall (D-NM)

Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

If Democrats will this easily join Republicans in voting to undermine public interest protections, we’re in for a long four years.

UPDATE (12/7): Often, senators will vote for cloture but then against final passage of a bill. In this case, several of them did the reverse. Brown, Gillibrand, Manchin, Schumer, and Udall all voted for the Cures Act earlier today. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who was absent for the cloture vote, joined Merkley, Sanders, and Warren in voting against it. The final vote was 94–5 (Mike Lee was the sole Republican dissenter — but for different reasons).