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Big Pharma, medical firms donated $750K to Kyrsten Sinema — then she opposed drug bill

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Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, the controversial Arizona Democrat who threatens to derail President Biden's legislative agenda, received more than $750,000 in donations from the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. After that, she announced her opposition to a Democratic plan to lower prescription drug costs.

Sinema told White House officials that she opposes House and Senate bills that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug costs, sources told Politico this week. Democrats estimate these bills would save $450 billion over the next decade and thereby pay for a large portion of President Joe Biden's $3.5 trillion spending plan. The budget bill would expand child care, health care and paid family leave and would fund programs to combat climate change, among other measures. Three House Democrats have also balked at the plan, although they have offered a "centrist" alternative that would drastically limit which drugs are subject to Medicare negotiation. Sinema reportedly opposes that proposal as well. During her successful 2018 Senate campaign, Sinema repeatedly vowed to lower prescription drug prices and drug costs for seniors.

Sinema is a longtime favorite of the pharmaceutical industry and now appears ready to undermine Biden's entire agenda as Big Pharma wages a lobbying blitz in hopes of torpedoing the bill, which nearly 90% of voters support. Sinema and several House Democrats who oppose the drug pricing plan have received major financial support from the industry. Given a 50-50 Senate and a narrow House majority of 220 to 212 (with three seats currently vacant), their opposition could sink the proposal or even the entire budget bill.

Sinema has received $519,988 from PACs and individuals in the pharmaceutical industry throughout her political career, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. She brought in more than $120,000 in pharma contributions between 2019 and 2020 even though she is not up for re-election until 2024. Sinema has also received $190,161 from donors in the pharmaceutical manufacturing space and $62,797 from the medical supplies industry.

Sinema's office is led by a former lobbyist whose firm worked on behalf of pharmaceutical companies. The senator's chief of staff, Meg Joseph, was a registered lobbyist and principal at Clark & Weinstock, where her clients included the health insurer Health Net. During her tenure, the company also lobbied on behalf of numerous pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer, drug distributor AmerisourceBergen Corp., and the biotech firm Genzyme Corp. It also lobbied on behalf of Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and AdvaMed, two major industry trade groups.

Sinema did not respond to questions from Salon. Her spokesman Josh LaBombard told Politico that she is committed to "working directly in good faith with her colleagues and President Biden on the proposed budget reconciliation package."

He continued, "Given the size and scope of the proposal, while those discussions are ongoing we are not offering detailed comment on any one proposed piece of the........

© Salon

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