Twelve Republicans and thirteen Democrats crossed party lines in a 52-46 vote against prodding Congress toward examining the allowance of pharmaceutical imports from Canada.
The non-binding resolution failed Wedneday night amid a series of regular procedural considerations — a so-called “vote-a-rama.” Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) sponsored the measure.
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The move was a blow for those seeking to ensure access to healthcare, as the Senate also approved of a resolution orienting Congress toward a repeal of Obamacare, in a 51-48 vote.
Notable Democratic defections on the Canada vote included Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the ranking member of the Senate health committee, and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), a rumored 2020 presidential contender.
Booker made history earlier Wednesday, when he became the first senator to testify against a colleague nominated for a cabinet position — Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for Attorney General. Sessions has been widely panned for reactionary views on race, and freedom of religion. His outlook on the former saw the senate reject his nomination to the federal judiciary in 1986.
Republicans who voted for the Canada measure included Rand Paul (R-Ky.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas.)
Paul also voted against the Affordable Care Act repeal resolution, citing no viable Republican alternative; specifically, the lack of a plan to pay for the repeal.
Speaking in favor of the importation resolution, Sanders said that Canadians often “pay 50 percent less for the same exact medicine that we buy in Vermont or in America.”
“We all know the reason why,” the former presidential candidate added. “The power and wealth of the pharmaceutical industry — and their 1,300 lobbyists and unlimited sums of money — have bought the United States Congress.”
Any move by the US to allow more drug importations from Canada, however, might not be so welcome north of the border.
During the administration of George W. Bush, for example, Ottawa sought to clamp down on exports to the US. The Liberal government of Paul Martin was concerned American consumers were pushing up the price of medicine in Canada.
“It is a matter of common sense that Canada cannot be the drugstore of the United States,” said then-Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh, in 2005. “Neither American consumers nor Canadian suppliers should have any illusions otherwise.”
UPDATE: Sen. Booker defended his vote, in a statement issued Thursday afternoon to Jezebel.
Booker claimed that he voted “no” because Canadian safety standards aren’t up to snuff.
“Any plan to allow the importation of prescription medications should also include consumer protections that ensure foreign drugs meet American safety standards,” Booker said. “I opposed an amendment put forward last night that didn’t meet this test.”
Sen. Klobuchar, however, hit out at this line of reasoning in January 2015, when she supported a previous effort to allow Americans to import pharmaceuticals from Canada.
“The cheaper alternatives [in Canada] come with the same safety standards and are the same dosages sold in the US,” she said two years ago, according to The Wall Street Journal, “but currently law prevents Americans from importing them and benefiting from the savings.”