Magazine article Drug Topics

What's for Dinner?

Magazine article Drug Topics

What's for Dinner?

Article excerpt

A full plate of pharmacy legislation awaits the 106th Congress after impeachment trial ends

The new Congress has a full plate of pharmacy legislation to consider, but the weight of impeachment may put it on a lowcooperation diet. "Obviously [the Senate trial] is going to distract everyone initially," said Susan Winkler, director of policy and legislation for the American Pharmaceutical Association. "Depending on how partisan we see things go, it could be detrimental" long term. "Everyone [is wondering] in the back of his or her mind, `When will this really end?' "

Many in the House of Representatives would like to proceed as though it already had ended. The House has no further role in the impeachment of President Clinton, except for the 13 lawmakers presenting its case to the Senate for removing him from office. But House Republicans went through a leadership crisis because of unexpected election losses and impeachment fallout. The new and largely unknown speaker, Dennis Hastert (R, Ill.), presides over the narrowest majority this century Democratic leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri knows that a switch of just six seats in the 2000 elections will vault him into Hastert's spot. And as such, Gephardt's incentives for cooperating with the GOP that vote two articles of impeachment on a Democratic President would seem to be minimal, at least at this point. "A do-nothing Republican deal makes him look good," observed John Rector, the veteran lobbyist and vp. for government affairs at the National Community Pharmacists Association. He noted that Hastert has a good background in health-care policy and crafted a managed care patient's bill of rights for the House GOP last year. But it attracted little Democratic support then-NCPA opposed it too-and gaining any now is "even more difficult under these circumstances."

But despite all the uncertainty, pharmacy associations are setting their legislative agendas, which frequently overlap, and are trying to proceed with business as usual. "A tremendous number of things are going on behind the scenes," said Larry Kocot, general counsel for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. He called the Senate trial "a formal Washington distraction" and said that NACDS is dealing with staff and lawmakers not directly involved with it. …

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