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Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson votes to block bipartisan cap on insulin prices

Instead supported doomed partisan amendment that would have subsidized the drug. Sen. Baldwin joined all Dems and some Republicans in failed effort.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)


As Senate Democrats were busy squeaking through a large bill on Sunday they say will reduce inflation, fight climate change and reduce drug prices, among other things, Sen. Ron Johnson joined 42 other Republican senators to block an amendment to the bill that would cap the price of insulin at $35 per month.

Seven Republican senators joined all 50 Democratic senators — which includes Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin — in voting for the measure, but it failed to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to break the filibuster. Even if Johnson had voted for the amendment, it still needed two more Republican Senate votes to pass.

Johnson voted in favor of a separate, Republican amendment that would have subsidized insulin prices for low-income people with funds from Obamacare. It had no support from Democrats and failed on a party-line vote.

“Increased competition has led to price declines,” Johnson posted on the social media platform Twitter. “Price controls lead to reduced supply, availability & new drug development.”

Johnson also posted on Twitter that “lying Dems and their friends in corporate media are it again, distorting.. a “gotcha” vote.”

UW-Madison political science professor Barry Burden agreed that Democrats’ decision to bring to the floor the insulin capping amendment “was something of a “gotcha” vote, but that is the case with many votes in Congress.”

“Democrats might use the vote against Johnson in the general election campaign,” he continued. “If so, they will have a valid point that Johnson did in fact vote against a simple price cap on insulin at a time when he is railing against the health care system and inflation.”

In fact, Democrats already have. Johnson’s likely Democratic opponent for his U.S. Senate seat, Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, was quick to pounce.

“No one should have to choose between a medication their life depends on and putting food on the table,” Barnes wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “But Ron Johnson doesn’t care — he’s bought and paid for by the pharma lobby.”

About 20 to 30 percent of people taking insulin paid more than $35 per month for the drug, according to a 2022 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Under the Senate’s complicated rules, the Democrats passed their Inflation Reduction Act with a simple majority of 50 Democratic senators plus Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote, but the Senate Parliamentarian ruled they needed 60 votes to break the filibuster to pass the insulin cap amendment, leading to its failure. At least for now.

The Badger Project is a nonpartisan, citizen-supported journalism nonprofit in Wisconsin.

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