News broke today that New Jersey Senator Cory Booker has come out in support of Senator Bernie Sanders’ drug reimportation bill after voting against the measure the first time it was introduced not long ago.
Last month, Senator Sanders introduced an amendment to a budget resolution that would have instructed the Senate to draft legislation allowing for the reimportation of cheaper pharmaceuticals from our neighbor to the north. The amendment was largely symbolic — its passage would not have bound the Senate to lift the ban on reimportation.
Nonetheless, 13 Democratic senators, including Booker, voted against it, and found themselves instantly branded as corporate shills — who’d rather protect drug-industry profits than the indigent sick — by every principled leftist with a Twitter account.
Sanders, himself, accused his colleagues of lacking “guts,” and then predicted “in the coming weeks and months you’re going to see many of them develop the courage to stand up to pharma.”
On Tuesday, Booker had his “come to Bernie” moment. After the uproar that followed the January vote, the New Jersey senator claimed that he had only opposed the measure because it had lacked language ensuring safety standards. This rationale wasn’t terribly convincing — especially considering how large the pharmaceutical industry looms in his home state of New Jersey, and on Booker’s (OpenSecrets page). But now, Booker has put his co-sponsorship where his mouth is, offering his support for Sanders’s latest attempt to expand free trade in pharmaceuticals.
Now, progressives in the Democratic party are trying to figure out whether this newfound love of imported pharmaceuticals by Booker is sincere, or just a self preservation reaction to the flak he got for opposing the bill the first time around. Reaction on social media show that Booker will have to do a lot more than support a bill on the second time of asking to convince progressives to see him as anything more than a corporate Democrat who’s only trying to now ride the coattails of Senator Sanders.
While many progressives see this shift of a corporate Democrat siding with the progressives, even if forced, as a small victory for the progressive movement, the overriding sentiment about Senator Booker seems to still be that if someone shows you who they are the first time, you should believe them.