The pharmaceutical industry's controversial deal with the administration on health overhaul held up in its first public test yesterday.
The Senate Finance Committee defeated an amendment to Sen. Max Baucus's bill that would have sought more than $100 billion in rebates from drugmakers over 10 years. Previously, the industry pledged $80 billion in cuts to President Obama in return for companies' support of an overhaul.
The Republicans voted as a bloc against an amendment, proposed by Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, that would have tapped Big Pharma for more money to close the doughnut hole of the Medicare drug benefit.
What's more interesting is the three Democrats who voted against the proposal: Chairman and chief dealmaker Max Baucus; Thomas Carper of Delaware, home to the US headquarters of AstraZeneca, and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the center of the American drug industry.
The drug companies aren't "foolish," said Carper, according to the Washington Post. "I know I would walk away."
So will the machinations on Capitol Hill lead to real change on health? Hard to tell. Out on Main Street, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll suggests a fair-sized chunk of the public is still on the fence, though leaning toward overhaul.
About 20 percent of Americans are "fence-sitters," and the Journal's Jerry Seib writes, the good news for Obama is that among the "truly undecideds" more support passage of the president's plan than doing nothing by a 37 percent to 23 percent margin.