Senate to Repeal Law Shielding Drug Giants – NYT, WashPost

Senate to Repeal Law Shielding Drug Giants – NYT, WashPost

Sat, 11 Jan 2003

An agreement was reached by three Senate Republicans and Majority Leader, Sen. Bill Frist to repeal the three controversial corporate giveaways that had been ‘mysteriously’ slipped into the Homeland Security law.

Despite his strong support for giving pharmaceutical companies indemnification from liability, Sen. Frist was persuaded to repeal the provision that would have benefited Eli Lilly immediately. The company would have been shielded from lawsuits by parents of autistic children who claim the children were harmed by a preservative used by Lilly in vaccines. The other contentious provisions favored Texas AM University and Would allow corporations who evade US taxes by moving offshore to Benefit from government contracts.

“The remedy of the three egregious provisions included in the Homeland Security bill is a victory for fairness,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, who fought them. “These three provisions should never have been slipped into the homeland security bill at the 11th hour without the benefit of debate or committee review.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/11/national/11HOME.html?pagewanted=print&position=top

January 11, 2003

Leaders Promise Repeal of Provisions Hidden in Bill

By DAVID FIRESTONE

WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 – Congress will eliminate three special-interest provisions that caused a furor after they were anonymously inserted into the domestic security law last year, Republican leaders of the House and Senate announced today.

The provisions, which included a waiver of liability for vaccine makers, astounded Democrats and many Republicans last year when they were added to the law without notice or debate. Centrist senators from both parties went along with them to create the Department of Homeland Security, but won a promise from Republican leaders to review the provisions in the new Congress.

In an agreement announced today, that promise was kept, said the new Senate majority leader, Bill Frist of Tennessee. When the two houses take up a spending bill later this month to keep the government operating, it will include a section to revise or eliminate the special-interest provisions in the domestic security act, Dr. Frist said. Spokesmen for the speaker of the House, J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, and the majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, said the House would also approve the measure.

“That was a promise that was made in the 107th Congress that we’ve been able to fulfill in the last few minutes,” Dr. Frist said.

The new language, which won the approval of many of the senators who were most angered by last year’s maneuver, will remove a section that limited the liability of vaccine manufacturers in lawsuits. The provision, which no one would claim responsibility for, would have prevented lawsuits by families who say a mercury-based vaccine preservative led to their children’s autism.

Dr. Frist, who wrote a similar provision in an unrelated vaccine bill, said he still supported the idea as a way to strengthen manufacturers as the first line of defense against biological terror. He said he would bring his bill up again, but it would go through the regular process of committee hearings and amendments.

Today’s language will also remove a provision in the domestic security law that allows the new department to contract with American companies that move abroad to avoid federal taxes. The measure will say that such companies can receive domestic security contracts only if they are essential to national security.

The agreement also calls for revision of a provision to create a domestic security research center in a way that gives a preference to Texas A&M University and other Texas institutions. The narrow criteria defining the institution will be broadened to permit many other universities to compete, according to a draft of the agreement, although some last-minute jockeying over the precise language was still taking place.

Some senators, including Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, said they were still concerned that the language would benefit Texas A&M.

When the provisions came to light last year, Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic move to strip them from the bill. At the time, many critics said their secretive creation undermined confidence in the legislative process. Many critics were pleased with today’s agreement.

“The remedy of the three egregious provisions included in the Homeland Security bill is a victory for fairness,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, who fought them. “These three provisions should never have been slipped into the homeland security bill at the 11th hour without the benefit of debate or committee review.”

The vaccine provision caused the most consternation on Capitol Hill, because of the complaints from families who wanted to sue vaccine makers and because no official in the White House, the Senate or the House would acknowledge inserting the provision in what appeared to be the unrelated creation of the Homeland Security Department. Even today, Dr. Frist, the biggest proponent of the provision, said he was not responsible, as did the House leaders, through their spokesmen.

But Dr. Frist said his efforts on behalf of vaccine makers were not over, and today’s agreement includes a provision expressing the “sense of the Senate” that legislation will pass in six months granting protection to manufacturers as well as a way for patients who suffer vaccine-related injuries to pursue their grievances.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company |

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A40391-2003Jan10.html

Senate to Repeal Law Shielding Drug Giants Frist Makes Deal With 3 GOP Moderates By Helen Dewar Washington Post Staff Writer Saturday, January 11, 2003; Page A04

Senate Republican leaders agreed yesterday to repeal controversial language approved last year to help shield pharmaceutical giants such as Eli Lilly and Co. from multibillion-dollar lawsuits in which parents allege that a vaccine preservative caused autism in their children.

The agreement covers two other hotly contested proposals that had been tucked into legislation creating the Department of Homeland Security. It was crafted by three GOP moderates in negotiation with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and other party leaders. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who led the effort among Democrats to overturn the vaccine provision, called the agreement a “great victory” over special interests.

The three GOP moderates — Sens. Lincoln D. Chafee (R.I.), Susan Collins (Maine) and Olympia J. Snowe (Maine) — had agreed to vote for the homeland security bill only if Republican leaders would satisfy their concerns over the three provisions. The bill would have failed without their votes.

The provisions are to be included in a “must-pass” omnibus spending bill for domestic programs that Senate leaders hope to bring to the floor next week. The three senators said they expect the House to go along.

Repeal of the vaccine language will allow most if not all of the lawsuits that would have been terminated by the earlier bill to continue, Republican aides said. The agreement also would commit the Senate to vote within six months on a broader bill to ensure development and production of vaccines while providing redress for those who have suffered vaccine-related injuries, according to the three senators.

A second provision of the agreement would repeal language relaxing a proposed ban on issuance of homeland security contracts to companies that create foreign tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes. The earlier language would have allowed federal contracts to be awarded to such companies to cut costs or save jobs. Under yesterday’s agreement, only national security concerns could be considered.

The third provision would broaden criteria under which a university could compete for funding to carry out research for the Homeland Security Department. Critics had charged that the original language was so narrowly drawn that it would stack the deck for Texas A&M University, which has had powerful patrons in Congress.

The new provision provides that all eligible schools can compete for research contracts, with the secretary of the new department setting criteria for the research.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

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