The half billion dollar surprise

Tom Jackson
Feb 1, 2013



Ohio's two U.S. senators both say they didn't realize they were voting to give half a billion dollars of tax money to a drug company when they voted to approve the "fiscal cliff" bill last month.
That's what U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, both told me in separate telephone conference calls to reporters on Wednesday. Both lawmakers make themselves regularly available to reporters when the Senate's in session.
The "fiscal cliff" bill averted a looming financial crisis by approving a set of tax cuts and tax hikes and putting off automatic budget cuts that otherwise would have kicked in.
But it also contained a provision that essentially provided $500,000,000 in Medicare money for a drug company, Amgen, by postponing price controls on a dialysis drug.
The New York Times reported on the provision in Jan. 19 newspaper article, as I noted in a previous blog post. The Times article noted that Amgen deploys 74 Washington lobbyists and recently had been fined $762 million for a fraudulent marketing scheme.
Brown said he didn't know about the provision when the bill was rushed through.
"If there had been more sunlight, I think it would have happened differently," he said.
Brown said the proper way to deal with the provision would have been to go through the normal process of considering bills in committee before taking them up on the floor, providing time for the measure to become known and to be discussed.
When that normal process isn't followed, "We don't get good legislation and we end up with things in bills that shouldn't be," he said.
He blamed Republicans for provoking a fiscal crisis and forcing a quick, last minute deal between leaders in Congress and the White House.
Portman said that after the Times article came out, he asked his staff about the matter and learned that a General Accounting Office report had suggested a delay because of a fear that medical service would be disrupted in rural areas.
"I don't know if it's bad policy or not, frankly," Portman said.
But he said the provision was an example of the problems of rushing through last minute budget bills. 
"You end up with surprises," he said.
Portman said if Congress passes his End Government Shutdowns Act, it would not have to pass last-minute budget bills. His proposal, introduced last month, would continue government spending with an automatic continuing resolution if Congress failed to pass a budget bill on time. If the budget delay continued, spending would be cut in a series of 1 percent cuts, with the first kicking in after 120 days and the next cuts kicking in every 90 days, until a budget bill finally passed.



nothing they do is as it appears. Then we find out and say that is terrible. Then some go and vote for them again. Frustrating at best


The names of the person, or persons, who write a provision should have their names attached and publicized. Sure would be better than 2 parties pointing fingers playing the liars club game

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I agree that names of each part's author (as well as title or firm/organization they represent) should be provided as well as annotations on why this is added instead of just put in there hidden and seamless. All these bills that are just passed presuming things are ok in them and they can be fixed afterwards just as easily. Then we get so mired in correcting the near/past that we can only spare small glimpses into our future or just mold the present around the holes and misinformation. It is irresponsibility regardless of the person in the suit making the decision. Choices like this make and break business, ripple through the lives of millions, and have a significant impact on our economy. Yet are just decided over something like two weeks' time or some other pressured timetable.


Too bad someone didn't put in a provision to cut their wages....


Sounds familiar. Wasn't obamacare voted in the same way? I think it was Pelosi that said just vote it in and we will find out what's in it at a later date. Hold on to your butt cheeks!

2cents's picture

@ Mr. Jackson:

Not quite a "give," merely a continuation.

"The delay will cost the Medicare program up to $500 million over a two-year period."

It's been estimated that the twin corrupt Ponzi schemes of Medicare & Medicaid lose $60B annually through waste, fraud and abuse.

$500M? A preverbal "drop in the bucket."

The Obama crime family continues to attempt to control healthcare costs by squeezing the providers. How long before the quality seriously erodes?

"We're gonna punish our enemies and we're gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us." - Pres. BHO


Since no reads a bill why not just have one thing voted on at a time. It might even save time, OH THATS RIGHT THERE ON SALARY NOT HOURLY.


Someone has to know who put that into the bill. They should expose the people and just get it over with. Then all this guesswork can end. Frankly it has to be pretty clear I would think as to who did it. Who has he most ties to that particular company on PAC money? Just follow the cash and there you have it.

The transparency factor should be most evident in this case. Why all the secrecy if they haven't done anyting wrong?


@ wiredmama222:

See the link in my prior post.

"Supporters of the delay — notably, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who leads the Senate Finance Committee, and Orrin Hatch of Utah, the ranking Republican on that committee — say it is needed to give the Medicare system and dialysis providers time to absorb other complicated changes in federal reimbursements for kidney care."


So these two are the two that "sneaked" this thing into the bill? Why didn't they just tell everyone they were doing this? Its just plain STUPID to do something so sneaky and underhanded to put this in like a pair of thieves and not expect everyone to be mad about having it found.

I don't care if it IS business and usual. I have NEVER like Orin Hatch, and who is Max Baucus and how long has he been around?

You forgot to mention Mitch McConnell.....these guys ALL need to go. What other members of Congress are PAID by this lobby group for this Pharmaceutical company Pac. I am sure they are not the only ones?

It is truly time to take back our country from these people. It is simple. Tell your doctor NOT to prescribe any drugs for you from these companies. Tell your friends not to either. Before long they will take a hit.

BW1's picture

The solution is to get the government out of setting prices in the first place - that's the purpose of the marketplace.

It also wouldn't hurt transparency to pass a constitutional amendment limiting all bills to 300 or fewer words.