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Tilting at Windmills

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February 12, 2010

TAUZIN LEAVES PHRMA.... The White House decided early on that when it came to health care reform, it could only handle combating so many enemies. The insurance industry would prove daunting enough, and policymakers didn't want to take on the pharmaceutical industry at the same time. A compromise was struck, and PhRMA endorsed the Democratic reform framework (and invested in advertising that seemed to make no difference whatsoever).

Brokering the deal was PhRMA's top lobbyist Billy Tauzin, a powerful former GOP lawmaker. Yesterday, Tauzin announced his departure.

Billy Tauzin, one of Washington's highest-paid lobbyists, is resigning as president of the drug industry trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America amid internal disputes over its pact with the White House to trade political support for favorable terms in the proposed health care overhaul. [...]

Like almost every other seasoned Washington player, Mr. Tauzin, who makes $2 million a year, bet on health care reform early -- only to watch it come to a screeching halt... [A]fter the health care overhaul stalled when Democrats lost the Massachusetts Senate seat, some industry leaders felt the trade group had gone too far giving concessions and could lose on some important legislative issues without gaining the protection it had sought.

Tauzin's deal proved to be contentious among nearly every constituency -- the left thought PhRMA was getting off easy; Republicans wanted the industry (a long-time GOP ally) to help in killing reform; and the industry thought Tauzin had conceded too much.

The question, at this point, is whether Tauzin's absence will help or hurt the larger effort. There's a reasonably strong possibility that, with Tauzin leaving, PhRMA will not just walk away from reform, but will try to put a nail in reform's coffin. It's also possible that the industry's opinion wouldn't necessarily dictate the outcome -- Dems are either going to muster the strength to finish the job or they won't.

The larger dynamic is unsettled, but Politico makes it sound as if policymakers have been dealing with industry executives directly, not Tauzin, so his departure won't necessarily change anything. What's more, Jonathan Cohn spoke to some industry insiders last night, who were skeptical that the landscape was poised to change significantly.

Still, it's one more opaque piece to an ever-changing puzzle. Keep an eye on PhRMA's next move.

Steve Benen 11:25 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (13)

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Comments

PhRMA should understand that the status quo is not sustainable and they should look for reform that will support a stable health economy. But don't bet on it.

Posted by: jb on February 12, 2010 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

There's a reasonably strong possibility that, with Tauzin leaving, PhRMA will not just walk away from reform, but will try to put a nail in reform's coffin.

It is reasonably sure the sun will come up tomorrow.

Caint imagine why the hopey-changey health care reform thingie didn't work out, what with partnering up with Tauzin and Big PHARMA right off the git-go. Shit that shuddah brought in single payer health care that the entire world would be envious of...

Posted by: neill on February 12, 2010 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

But hey, Old Wild Bill gets the greatest health care in the world!

Posted by: Troll-op on February 12, 2010 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

RE: "The question, at this point, is whether Tauzin's absence will help or hurt the larger effort. There's a reasonably strong possibility that, with Tauzin leaving, PhRMA will not just walk away from reform, but will try to put a nail in reform's coffin."

I agree. It certainly appears that Tauzin was forced out, and that signals that the industry intends to reverse course. Under Tauzin's leadership, Big PhRMA tried to ride the horse. It is entirely possible that industry leaders have decided that that strategy is too dangerous --given that the final outcome is in a state of flux and their previous negotiations have become too public and too unpopular. So their new strategy is to put HRC down.

Plus, let's face it, there is a lot of blood in the water. Many in Corporate America gave big bucks to the Democrats in the last couple of elections because they could see that the Democrats would hold all of the power. With the Democrats' hold on power slipping away, most will change sides back to the Republicans.

Posted by: kevino on February 12, 2010 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

If Tauzin makes $2 million a year, he's making twice not very much according to Michael Steele, right ?

Posted by: rbe1 on February 12, 2010 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

Long, long before the "Citizens United" decision, the real political power in the country was concentrated in the corporations, and the only way anything was going to be accomplished was by finding support from those corporations whose interests could be leveraged.
Real action on AGW became possible when, but only when, the insurance companies realized they'd be on the hook for a dozen Katrinas a decade, and a "100-year-flood" every 3 years -- and the Pentagon signed on because somebody there realized it wouldn't be a good thing for them if Central America dried up.
I thought there'd be a real chance for action on HCR when the CEO of GM said, a few years ago, that they were no longer a car-making company, but a health-care company that was financed by selling cars. Guess I was wrong on that one.
At this point, the "free trade" flavor of deregulation has gone so far that the corporations no longer need Americans as either a market or a labor-force; they have the whole world to play with now. Who needs a surviving American middle class when there's a burgeoning middle class in India and China that's already an order of magnitude larger?
I wish I could see even one bright spot in this picture.

Posted by: smartalek on February 12, 2010 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

So does this mean that the White House's deal with Pharma has now been canceled?

Posted by: Christopher on February 12, 2010 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

The drug companies are sorta irrelevant. Most of their popular drugs are going off-patent in the next couple of years and they don't have much to replace them with.

Posted by: Jose Padilla on February 12, 2010 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

...and they don't have much to replace them with. -Jose Padilla

I don't buy that for a second. There will always be a pill to make you harder, happier, and hairier than the last one, and after seeing the ad on TV, you'll just have to have it.

Posted by: doubtful on February 12, 2010 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Uh, Tauzin was a "Democrat." But from Louisiana. So yeah, "former powerful GOP lawmaker" is accurate. Nevermind.

Posted by: pinson on February 12, 2010 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

It's not the advertising they do that has an effect, it's the purchase price they pay politicians and whether they buy Republican or Democrat. The PHRMA "compromise" was just another return on investment.

Posted by: Dale on February 12, 2010 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

The White House decided early on that when it came to health care reform, it could only handle combating so many enemies. The insurance industry would prove daunting enough, and policymakers didn't want to take on the pharmaceutical industry at the same time. A compromise was struck,

I'm sorry but this makes me laugh. Another Washington Monthly whitewash of Obama. This makes the deal seem like such a logical thing to do and not at all corrupt, spineless and cynical.

Posted by: Dale on February 12, 2010 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Tauzin was first elected as a Democrat (in 1980), switch to the Republicans in 1995.

Posted by: weichi on February 12, 2010 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK
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