Sanders to push for drug re-importation in new Congress

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(Host) Congressman Bernie Sanders says the passage of legislation allowing individuals to re-import drugs from Canada will be one of his top priorities for the new Congressional session. Sanders says he also wants to help mobilize grass roots support to defeat President Bush’s plan to partially privatize Social Security.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) On Tuesday afternoon Sanders was sworn into his eighth term in the U.S. House.

For most of his congressional career, he’s been a strong supporter of re-importation legislation as a way to lower prescription drug costs in this country. On average, many popular drugs are available in Canada at a savings of between 50 and 75 percent. Although the Republicans have expanded their majority in both chambers of Congress, Sanders is optimistic about the future of this bill:

(Sanders) “While the new Congress is certainly going to be more conservative, a number of senators and members of the House who have been elected are pro re-importation. I think with polls showing 60, 70, 80 percent of the American people thinking it’s absurd that we have to pay so much more than our Canadian or European friends for the same medicine. The momentum is with us.”

(Kinzel) Sanders’ passion for the re-importation bill is matched by his opposition to President Bush’s plan to allow younger workers to privately invest some of their Social Security tax revenue. Sanders thinks the Bush administration is deliberately misleading the public about the solvency of the Social Security fund in order to gain support for their plan:

(Sanders) “Despite what the president says, despite what many in the media say, despite what the Republican leadership says, Social Security is not – underline ‘not’ – in crisis. It is not going bankrupt. That is total absolute malarkey. Every study shows, and nobody argues with it, that Social Security will be able to pay out every benefit owed to every eligible American – depending on the study, for 40 to 45 to 50 years. That is not a system in crisis.”

(Kinzel) Sanders argues that Social Security benefits should never be tied to the fortunes of the stock market. Instead he says he’s supporting a plan to increase the salary cap for Social Security taxes. Currently this tax is not imposed on income above $88,000:

(Sanders) “If we institute some modest changes like doing away with the cap right now on income which is paid into the Social Security trust fund, we can prolong Social Security for dozens more years.”

(Kinzel) Sanders says he’ll also be working on a new national dairy equity proposal that would create five regional dairy compacts across the country. Sanders says this approach will provide financial stability for family farmers at little cost to taxpayers. Under the proposal, manufacturers would be assessed with a surcharge whenever federal milk prices dropped below the cost of production. This money would be distributed directly to the dairy farmers to help stabilize their income.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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