Not up for debate: ending corruption and the power of special interests in Washington
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Throughout the New Hampshire primary campaign, candidates have visited diners, coffee shops, and town halls across our state to learn what voters here care about as they make their case to lead our nation.

These candidates can hear the same priorities and concerns that I hear from my constituents everyday. They’ll hear the cost of prescription drugs and health care is staggering and getting more expensive by the minute. They’ll hear heartbreaking stories of loved ones who are grappling with or have been lost to substance misuse. They’ll hear of deep concern for the environment and the future of the planet.

Through these interactions, candidates will spot a common denominator between a variety of pressing matters: the outsized influence of big money and powerful interests in blocking meaningful progress.

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Take the issue of prescription drugs. It’s incomprehensible that Americans pay the world’s highest cost for prescriptions and that so many have to choose between following doctor’s orders and meeting other basic household needs.

A constituent recently told me about the painful chronic condition she shares with her daughter and has to decide every month whose prescription to fill because she can't fill both on her fixed income. Another constituent told me he cannot retire because his life is dependent on drugs that cost $3,000 a month out-of-pocket. This is inhumane and inconsistent with our values, but powerful forces guard the status quo.

In December we passed H.R. 3 through the House, a bill to dramatically reduce the price of medicines by allowing the government to negotiate prices directly with pharmaceutical companies. H.R. 3 also included a provision I added to the bill, the Advancing Enrollment and Reducing Drug Costs Act of 2019, that would expand low-income seniors’ access to prescription drugs under Medicare Part D.

Unfortunately, the drug companies and special interests are digging in to oppose this bill and protect their record profits. Like with nearly 300 bipartisan bills passed by the House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRosenstein steps back into GOP crosshairs Biden to deliver remarks in Philadelphia Tuesday on nationwide protests Senate Republicans urge Trump to tone down rhetoric on protests MORE (R-Ky.) has blocked a vote on H.R. 3 in the Senate. He has even blocked a drug pricing bill supported by members of his own party.

The sway the special interests hold over this issue is incredible. Last year there were nearly three industry lobbyists for every member of the House and Senate. McConnell himself works hand in glove with these interests, and it was reported earlier this year that he’s the top recipient of campaign contributions from executives of big drug companies.

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If we’re going to make progress on any issue in Washington, we must change this system which rewards monied interests at the expense of the American people. Whether it’s drug prices, climate change, or gun violence, the dominance of big money in our political system is skewing our democracy and hurting our people.

It’s time that an American struggling to fill a prescription has the same clout as the CEO of a drug company. That’s why tonight’s debate at Anselm College is a perfect opportunity for presidential candidates to tell New Hampshire voters about their plans to end corruption and the influence of big money.

Their plans should start with H.R. 1, the For the People Act, the most comprehensive package of anti-corruption reforms since Watergate. The bill passed in the House last March, and it would sever the ties between special interests and politicians, protect the right to vote, and ensure public officials are working in the public interest.

They should also include the SHIELD Act to protect our elections from foreign interference, the SAFE Act to shore up our voting systems, and the Voting Rights Advancement Act to protect Americans from discrimination at the ballot box.

The House has taken the lead to protect our democracy, and it’s important for every presidential candidate to let voters know if they’ll join us. My constituents deserve to know if the candidates will support, prioritize, and work to get a comprehensive reform package on their desk that they can sign into law.

We can end corruption and the power of special interests in Washington, and in doing so we will restore a level playing field in our democracy and an ability to make meaningful progress. I hope to have the opportunity to work with the next president to do just that.

Pappas represents New Hampshire’s 1st District.