Every politician, to one degree or another, is an addict.
They get hooked on power. The euphoria. The rush.
And once they’ve had it, once they’ve felt it, they develop a need to keep it, to maintain it, to increase it. The dependence can become overwhelming. Captivating. Irresistible.
But power does not come cheap.
And the drug of choice for anyone strung out on political prestige is … money.
Last week, with the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package stalled in Congress, Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema went on a fundraising trip to Europe.
Nice gig, right?
But when the need for campaign cash appears to supersede the wearisome duties of public office, is it time for an intervention?
Sinema has the power to reduce drug prices
Sinema is one of two Democrats (with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia) holding up passage of the reconciliation bill, which includes things like increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans and allowing Medicare, using its bulk purchasing power, to negotiate lower drug prices.
Prior to her election to the Senate, Sinema tweeted:
“We need to make health care more affordable, lower prescription drug prices, and fix the problems in the system – not go back to letting insurance companies call all the shots.”
Since then, however, Sinema has been the recipient of huge amounts of campaign cash from those connected to the pharmaceutical industry.
The Kaiser Health News even called her a “pharma favorite in Congress.”
Some reports have her receiving as much as $750,000 in drug company related contributions, which has left many wondering if that’s why she’s not supporting the reconciliation bill.
Sen. Bernie Sanders indirectly called her out, saying, “Take a hard look at those people who are opposed to strong legislation to lower the cost of prescription drugs, and take a look at their campaign-finance reports. See where they get their money, how many of them get their money from the pharmaceutical industry, and the executives there. And I think there will be a direct correlation.”
Another colleague, California Democratic Rep. Scott Peters, said, “Senator Sinema is not yet for any proposal to deal with prescription drugs.”
Both Sinema and her staff remain cagey on the issue, however.
She told The Arizona Republic recently, “I believe that my colleagues and I should be focused on policies that ensure prescription drugs are available at the lowest cost possible.”
OK, then define exactly what that means.
It’s time to assert that famous independence
Does she support Medicare negotiating drug prices?
Does she support making $2,000 the maximum Medicare recipients should pay for drugs in a year? (That’s also in the bill.)
Throughout her career, Sinema has touted her sense of independence from outside influences.
If that’s true, then assert it.
Go cold turkey on the campaign cash addiction. Support the reconciliation package and squelch all the innuendo about Big Pharma’s influence.
That would be a good start – although, this being politics, the temptation, the cravings, will persist. It’s like the writer Anne Lamott once said about addiction, “You can get the monkey off your back, but the circus never leaves town.”
Reach Montini at [email protected].
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