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"Protecting the health and informed consent rights of children since 1982."

NVIC Statement:

NVIC has not made a statement regarding the disgraceful behavior by those in
the Senate who used under-handed tactics in late December to ram unjust
liability protection for drug companies through Congress. Many NVIC
supporters took positive action in December after NVIC issued a call to
action to try to defeat the massive lobbying effort by drug companies and
pro-forced vaccination lobbyists to remove access to the judicial system
when federal health initiatives result in vaccine injuries and deaths. It is
clear that the only way they could defeat us was to lie and deliberately
corrupt the legislative process. To more fully understand why they did what
they did, go to www.nvic.org and read the letter NVIC sent to Senate staffer
Robert Kadlec, M.D. protesting the liability shield legislation for Big
Pharma which President Bush has signed into law.


Gallatin News Examiner, TN
Thursday, 02/09/06


Frist denies protection was added in secret

Gannett News Service

WASHINGTON - Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis
Hastert engineered a backroom legislative maneuver to protect pharmaceutical
companies from lawsuits, say witnesses to the pre-Christmas power play.

The language was tucked into a Defense Department appropriations bill at the
last minute without the approval of members of a House-Senate conference
committee, say several witnesses, including a top Republican staff member.

In an interview, Frist, a doctor and Tennessee Republican, denied that the
wording was added that way.

Trial lawyers and other groups condemn the law, saying it could make it
nearly impossible for people harmed by a vaccine to force the drug maker to
pay for their injuries.

Many in health care counter that the protection is needed to help build up
the vaccine industry in the United States, especially in light of a possible
avian flu pandemic.

The legislation, called the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act,
allows the secretary of Health and Human Services to declare a public health
emergency, which then provides immunity for companies that develop vaccines
and other "countermeasures."

Beyond the issue of vaccine liability protection, some say going around the
longstanding practice of bipartisan House-Senate conference committees'
working out compromises on legislation is a dangerous power grab by
Republican congressional leaders that subverts democracy.

"It is a travesty of the legislative process," said Thomas Mann, senior
fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

"It vests enormous power in the hands of congressional leaders and private
interests, minimizes transparency and denies legitimate opportunities for
all interested parties, in Congress and outside, to weigh in on important
policy questions."

At issue is what happened Dec. 18 as Congress scrambled to finish its
business and head home for the Christmas holiday.

That day, a conference committee made up of 38 senators and House members
met several times to work out differences on the 2006 Defense Department
appropriations bill.

Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., the ranking minority House member on the conference
committee, said he asked Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, the conference
chairman, whether the vaccine liability language was in the massive bill or
would be placed in it.

Obey and four others at the meeting said Stevens told him no. Committee
members signed off on the bill and the conference broke up.

A spokeswoman for Stevens, Courtney Boone, said last week that the vaccine
liability language was in the bill when conferees approved it. Stevens was
not made available for comment.

During a January interview, Frist agreed. Asked about the claim that the
vaccine language was inserted after the conference members signed off on the
bill, he replied: "To my knowledge, that is incorrect. It was my
understanding, you'd have to sort of confirm, that the vaccine liability
which had been signed off by leaders of the conference, signed off by the
leadership in the United States Senate, signed off by the leadership of the
House, it was my understanding throughout that that was part of that
conference report."

But Keith Kennedy, who works for Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., as staff
director for the Senate Appropriations Committee, said at a seminar for
reporters last month that the language was inserted by Frist and Hastert,
R-Ill., after the conference committee ended its work.

"There should be no dispute. That was an absolute travesty," Kennedy said at
a videotaped Washington, D.C., forum sponsored by the Center on Congress at
Indiana University.

"It was added after the conference had concluded. It was added at the
specific direction of the speaker of the House and the majority leader of
the Senate. The conferees did not vote on it. It's a true travesty of the

After the conference committee broke up, a meeting was called in Hastert's
office, Kennedy said. Also at the meeting, according to a congressional
staffer, were Frist, Stevens and House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo.

"They (committee staff members) were given the language and then it was put
in the document," Kennedy said.

About 10 or 10:30 p.m., Democratic staff members were handed the language
and told it was now in the bill, Obey said.

He took to the House floor in a rage. He called Frist and Hastert "a couple
of musclemen in Congress who think they have a right to tell everybody else
that they have to do their bidding."

Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., also was critical of inserting the vaccine language
after the conference committee had adjourned.

"It sucks," he told Congress Daily that night.

Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., another member of the conference committee, was
upset, too, a staff member said, because he didn't have enough time to read
the language. The final bill was filed in the House at 11:54 p.m. and passed
308-102 at 5:02 the next morning.

The Senate unanimously approved the legislation Dec. 21, but not before
Senate Democrats, including several members of the conference committee,
bashed the way the vaccine language was inserted.

"What an insult to the legislative process," said Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.,
a member of the conference committee. Byrd is considered the authority on
legislative rules and tradition.

President Bush signed the legislation into law Dec. 30.

When asked about Frist's earlier denial, spokeswoman Amy Call said: "Bill
Frist has fought hard to protect the people of Tennessee and the people of
the United States from a bioterror emergency and that's what he did
throughout this process."

Hastert's office did not provide a response.

Not against the rules

The practice of adding to a compromise bill worked out by bipartisan
House-Senate conference committees, while highly unusual, is not thought to
violate congressional rules.

Some Senate and House Democrats have proposed banning the practice as part
of broader attempts at ethics reform in Congress.

They, consumer groups and others with concerns about possible harm caused by
vaccines charge that the move was a gift by Frist to the pharmaceutical
industry, which they point out has given a lot of campaign cash to the
Nashville doctor through the years.

"The senator should be working to ensure there are safe vaccines to protect
American families rather than protecting the drug industry's pocketbooks,"
Pamela Gilbert, president of Protect American Families, said in a statement.
The group is an alliance of consumer, labor and advocacy organizations.

Frist has received $271,523 in campaign donations from the pharmaceutical
and health products industry since 1989, according to the Center for
Responsive Politics, a watchdog group.

He is also a possible candidate for president in 2008.

In the interview, Frist reiterated how important he thinks the vaccine
protections are.

"The United States of America, if a pandemic occurs, is totally unprepared,"
he said. "And the only way we are going to be prepared is rebuilding our
manufacturing base to build a vaccine infrastructure that can be timely and
responsive. We don't have it today."

Frist has long advocated liability protection for vaccine makers, and it was
widely reported that he would attempt to attach the legislation to the
Defense Appropriations bill because it is considered must-pass legislation.

Ken Johnson, senior vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and
Manufacturers of America, said that, while the group favors liability
protection, it did not take a position nor did it lobby on behalf of the law
that passed. .

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