GOP Senate nominee Ted Budd voted against bill to lower drug prices as he took Pharma cash

3655

The North Carolina Republican is running for Senate as a 'liberal agenda crusher.'

Rep. Ted Budd, who recently won the Republican nomination to run in November for the North Carolina Senate seat being vacated by retiring incumbent Republican Richard Burr, voted in 2019 against H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which would have lowered the cost of prescription drugs.

Within days of that vote, he had received thousands of dollars from pharmaceutical industry political action committees.

The 2019 Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act was a proposal by congressional Democrats to bring down the cost of prescription drugs and insulin for millions of Americans. It would allow the federal government to negotiate lower prices in bulk for several of the most commonly used drugs through the Medicare system, cap out-of-pocket medicine costs for Medicare beneficiaries, and make cheaper therapeutics available to people with private insurance plans.

According to a 2021 analysis by the Center for American Progress, such a plan would save individuals, businesses, and the federal government billions of dollars.

The House passed H.R. 3 on Dec. 12, 2019, by a vote of 230-192. Like nearly all congressional Republicans — and the pharmaceutical industry that helps bankroll them — Budd opposed it.

The same day, Budd received a $2,500 contribution from the political action committee of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, which as of May 16 of this year now goes by the name GSK. Five days later, Pfizer's PAC gave him a $1,000 check. By the end of 2020, he had received a total of $3,500 from each company's PAC.

Spokespeople for Budd, GSK, and Pfizer did not immediately respond to inquiries for this story.

Both pharmaceutical giants are members of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the largest trade group for the industry. PhRMA has fiercely opposed every version of the prescription drug cost bill, claiming in December 2021 that it "inserts the heavy hand of government into America's medicine cabinet, and we know when government bureaucrats set the price of medicine, patients ultimately have less access to treatments and cures."

Republican industry allies in Congress frequently repeat the misleading talking point that if private pharma companies do not get to generate massive profits on their products, they will reduce research and development spending and devise fewer treatments in the future. A Congressional Budget Office analysis conducted in 2019 found that the bill's passage would likely reduce the number of new prescription drugs brought to market over a decade by just eight.

As majority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blocked the 2019 bill from even getting a vote in the Senate. A revised version of H.R. 3 is pending in the current Congress.

Days before voting against the legislation — and receiving the pharma industry checks — Budd also signed on as a co-sponsor of H.R. 19, the Lower Costs, More Cures Act, a pro-industry GOP alternative bill that would not include any negotiated bulk purchasing. A version of H.R. 19 is also currently pending in the current Congress.

Budd tweeted on Dec. 4, 2019, that he had discussed "lowering drug prices" with then-Vice President Mike Pence, adding, "Sadly, House Democrats are too obsessed with impeachment to work on any of these issues."

In December 2021, Budd voted against a bill to cap the co-pay for a month's worth of insulin under private health insurance plans at no more than $35. With more than 1 million North Carolinians diagnosed with some form of diabetes and many of them using insulin to control the disease, such a deal would benefit tens of thousands of the people he hopes to represent in the Senate.

Poll after poll has found broad national support for Medicare drug price negotiation and other efforts to bring down prescription drug costs.

Budd, whose Senate campaign site calls him a "liberal agenda crusher" and promises he "won't compromise our conservative values," has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, whose campaign for president in 2016 included a promise to let Medicare negotiate lower prices and "save $300 billion" a year for the program. "We don't do it," he told voters at a January 2016 campaign rally. "Why? Because of the drug companies."

Trump abandoned that pledge, as he did most of his campaign promises, after winning the White House, and threatened to veto H.R. 3 in 2019 if it passed.

Budd's personal financial disclosure for 2021 indicated that he and his wife hold hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of mutual funds, including holdings in an index fund that contains a large amount of pharmaceutical company stock.

Budd will face Democratic Senate nominee Cheri Beasley in the general election in November. Beasley, a former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, notes on her campaign site that she "supports expanding the Affordable Care Act with a public option, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and protecting coverage for pre-existing conditions."

"Why should a drug used to prevent asthma attacks cost almost $800 in the US but only $150 in the UK, Australia, & NZ?" she tweeted on Sept. 13, 2021. "We've got to lower prescription drug costs — and we can start by allowing Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.