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The chamber voted down the amendment, sponsored by Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain clashes with Joy Behar as the 'sacrificial Republican' on 'The View' The DNC's climate problems run deep Trump's health care focus puts GOP on edge MORE (R-Ariz.), in a vote of 43-54. The vote had a 60-vote threshold.

Prior to the amendment's defeat McCain blamed the pharmaceutical industry for pressuring the Senate to defeat the legislation.

"In a normal world this would probably require a voice vote, but what we're about to see is the incredible influence of the special interests, particularly pharma, here in Washington, that keeps people who cannot — that have to make a choice between eating and medicine," McCain said. "So what you're about to see is the reason for the cynicism that people have for the way we do things in Washington. Pharma, one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington, will exert its influence again at the expense of average, low income Americans who, again, will have to choose between medication and eating."

The vote came during a series of votes on amendments to a Food and Drug Administration reauthorization bill on Thursday. Thirty Republicans voted against the amendment.

Sen. Charles GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Health Care: Trump officials defend changes to family planning program | Senators unveil bipartisan package on health costs | Democrats pass T spending bill with HHS funds Overnight Health Care: Trump officials defend changes to family planning program | Senators unveil bipartisan package on health costs | Democrats pass T spending bill with HHS funds Grassley announces opposition to key Trump proposal to lower drug prices MORE (R-Iowa), a long-time supporter of allowing drug importation from Canada, spoke in favor of the McCain language Thursday morning.

"I have always considered drug importation a free-trade issue," Grassley said in his prepared remarks. "Imports create competition and keep domestic industry more responsive to consumers.

"If Americans could legally and safely access prescription drugs outside the United States, then drug companies will be forced to re-evaluate their pricing strategies," he added. "They'd no longer be able to gouge American consumers by making them pay more than their fair share of the high cost of research and development."

A border-state senator, Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), agreed that McCain's amendment would help reduce costs for Americans.

"American consumers are paying 50 percent higher costs for the same prescription drugs than Canadians do," she said. "We know for a fact that allowing drug importation generates considerable cost savings to the government, to individuals and businesses that provide health insurance coverage to their employees."

But Sen. Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziBeware of the 'unknown knowns' of budget reform The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa MORE (R-Wyo.) argued that the amendment would put the safety of Americans at risk, since it would let Canadian Internet pharmacies sell into the United States without any of the approval processes applied to U.S. drugs. "We're not talking about bus trips of seniors to reputable pharmacies right across the border," Enzi said.

Enzi added that drugs from Canada would actually be from anywhere around the world, as Canadian pharmacies have acknowledged that they get most of their drugs from overseas.

"Drugs that supposedly come from Canada can really come from any place in the world and then are shipped from Canada," he said.

Shortly after the McCain amendment's defeat, the Senate defeated one sponsored by Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders denies tweet about corporate Democrats was dig at Warren Sanders denies tweet about corporate Democrats was dig at Warren Democrats asked to create ideal candidate to beat Trump pick white man: poll MORE (I-Vt.) which takes away a drug company's exclusive marketing rights if that company is found guilty of fraud. The Senate defeated Sanders's bill 9 to 88.

The Senate also tabled an amendment by Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinOvernight Health Care: Trump officials defend changes to family planning program | Senators unveil bipartisan package on health costs | Democrats pass T spending bill with HHS funds Overnight Health Care: Trump officials defend changes to family planning program | Senators unveil bipartisan package on health costs | Democrats pass T spending bill with HHS funds Kushner meeting with senators to craft asylum deal MORE (D-Ill.) which would have established a requirement that dietary supplement manufacturers to register with the FDA. 

—This story was updated at 3:14 p.m.