Op-Ed: Still Waiting for the Senate to Take On Corruption

click to enlarge Sue Way with Representative Jason Crow. - OFFICE OF REPRESENTATIVE JASON CROW
Sue Way with Representative Jason Crow.
Office of Representative Jason Crow
One year ago this month, I joined with my colleagues to pass the For the People Act (H.R. 1), the most comprehensive package of anti-corruption reforms since Watergate.

By bringing dark money into the light, empowering small donors in our elections and restoring ethics and accountability in Washington, the bill delivered on my campaign promise to fight the power of special interests and get Washington working again.

Unfortunately, one year later, the bill is still stuck in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s “legislative graveyard,” along with hundreds of other bipartisan bills the House has passed. It’s joined there by bills to tackle climate change, reduce gun violence, strengthen our economy, raise wages, end discrimination in voting, protect the integrity of our elections, and lower the high cost of prescription drugs.

McConnell wears his obstruction like a badge of honor, but this gridlock means real harm to Coloradans. His refusal to allow a vote on any legislation to address the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs is a perfect example — and one that shows why we need to tackle corruption in Washington.

Late last year, I worked with my colleagues to pass the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act (H.R. 3), a bill to lower the cost of prescription drugs. The legislation also includes my Freedom From Price Gouging Act, which prevents Big Pharma from profiting off unfairly raising the cost of a drug just to line their pockets with more profits.

In casting my vote for H.R. 3 in December, I thought of Sue Way, a retired nurse from Aurora who saw her insulin increase by over 500 percent overnight. Suddenly she couldn’t afford her medication for a condition she had been dealing with since she was fourteen. Sue’s plight isn’t unique. What is notable, though, is how positive an impact H.R. 3 could have on Americans. In Colorado alone, 300,000 Coloradans with diabetes would save 75 percent on their insulin, while 400,000 Coloradans with asthma would save 80 percent on their prescriptions.

And yet....

McConnell has blocked a vote on this bill. He’s even blocked a vote on bipartisan legislation introduced by a senator of his own party, Iowa's Chuck Grassley.

Why? As one report noted last year, McConnell is afraid he “could incur the wrath of the well-financed pharmaceutical industry,” which opposed H.R. 3. The fact is, for every member of Congress, there are three Big Pharma lobbyists looking to buy their vote.

In fact, McConnell is the top Congressional recipient of money from pharmaceutical executives in the 2020 election cycle.

This is wrong. Corporate special interests like pharmaceutical companies shouldn’t have veto power over policies simply because they can spend more money on politics than families struggling to pay for their insulin.

It’s corruption, and it must stop.

If we want to fix the broken system, the first thing we must do is fix the structural inequalities in it. By passing H.R. 1 last March, we weren’t just reforming our campaign finance system, we were building the foundation to ensure quality affordable health care, end the scourge of gun violence, and combat climate change. To tackle any of these issues, we must sever the ties between special-interest influence and the policy-making process.

The For the People Act would end the dominance of big money in politics by empowering small-dollar donors, bringing dark money into the light, and ensuring that the Federal Election Commission has the tools to enforce our campaign finance laws. The first bill I ever introduced, the End Dark Money Act, was also included as part of H.R. 1. It would allow the IRS to ensure that non-profits adhere to their social-welfare mission rather than secretly funnel big money into elections.

It would also restore ethics and accountability in Washington by slowing the revolving door and ensuring that public officials are working in the public interest. And it will protect the right to vote by implementing policies like same-day and automatic voter registration that have been tested in states across the country.

If we’re going to make progress on issues like lowering prescription drug prices, we need to end the dominance of big money in politics, and that starts with the For the People Act.

On the one-year anniversary of H.R. 1’s passage in the House, Senator McConnell should stop stonewalling and allow a vote on this critical legislation.

A former Army Ranger and lawyer, Representative Jason Crow represents Colorado’s Sixth Congressional District, encompassing Aurora and parts of Adams and Douglas Counties.

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