Booker is taking orders from corporate pharmaceuticals
© Getty Images

It is a well-worn cliché that one should not throw stones from glass houses. Unfortunately, this apparently is one that Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) has yet to internalize: an omission which may well have led to the most hilariously pathetic series of news cycles any senator can endure.

Last week, in what can only be described as historically shameless grandstanding, Booker broke with the entire history of Senate precedent and testified against the nomination of his former colleague Alabama Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOn the Trail: Senate GOP hopefuls tie themselves to Trump Trump looms as flashpoint in Alabama Senate battle Trump tweets test Attorney General Barr MORE for attorney general. Displaying the approximate self-awareness of an infant still struggling to grasp object permanence, Booker denounced the man he had previously praised for his work on civil rights as callous and indifferent to justice. Apparently, Booker’s appreciation of the accomplishments of others extends only as far as his presidential ambitions can permit.

ADVERTISEMENT

And, indeed, judged purely from a cynical, power-seeking perspective, Booker’s stunt was a success: he energized the left-wing base of the Democratic Party, who are presently craving a hero with a plausible presidential future. Booker could, indeed, have walked away from the whole thing an early frontrunner for the 2020 presidential race.

 

But, unfortunately for Booker, newly minted heroes sometimes tread on fragile ground -- terrain that is easily swept out from under them when they cross more established lions of the left. Booker managed this in just under a week, antagonizing both Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersRussian interference reports rock Capitol Hill The Democratic nominee won't be democratically chosen Fox's Ingraham mocks DNC over Nevada voting malfunctions: 'Are we a Third World country?' MORE (D-Vt.), and its great 1/32nd Native American hope Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenThe Democratic nominee won't be democratically chosen Surging Sanders looks for decisive win in Nevada Bloomberg to do interview with Al Sharpton MORE, not to mention the legions of activists behind them who immediately abandoned any goodwill he had previously earned.

How did he manage this? By publicly taking a stand against a Senate amendment permitting importation of pharmaceuticals, a practice which would likely lower the absurd prices that presently exist in the United States. 

The bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharThe Democratic nominee won't be democratically chosen At Democratic debate, missed opportunities on immigration Surging Sanders looks for decisive win in Nevada MORE (D-Minn.) and Sanders himself, was notable in that despite its far left origins, it attracted the support of such right-wing firebrands as Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeThe Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' The 8 Republicans who voted to curb Trump's Iran war powers MORE (R-Utah) and the much-despised Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzPompeo to speak to influential conservative group in Iowa Top National Security Council aide moved to Energy Department role Ted Cruz takes aim at Alabama vasectomy bill: 'Yikes' MORE (R-Texas). It also would have fit right in with President-elect Trump’s publicly expressed determination to force drug prices down. 

In this, Trump, Lee, and Cruz were staying consistent with previous Republican administrations’ desire to attack high drug prices: in particular, their stances echoed President George H. W. Bush’s support for the 340B drug discount program, which requires pharmaceutical companies receiving Medicaid and Medicare Part B funding to offer their drugs to vulnerable populations at lower prices. And good for them, because measures that take aim at the shameless monopoly-style pricing regime of Big Pharma are part and parcel of the populist conservatism that defines today’s Republican Party.

So why, with grassroots leaders of both parties supporting it, would Booker vote it down? The answer, of course, is money. The pharmaceutical industry is Booker’s eighth biggest donor, which may explain why his concerns over the bill so obviously echoed that industry’s own talking points. 

Booker is, of course, entitled to act on behalf of corporate America, but to take this step so soon after denouncing Sessions for inattention to justice, particularly for minorities, takes a special level of gall. Black Americans especially tend to be poorer than their counterparts, and thus can least afford the abusive pricing that pharma favors. Booker, who was formerly mayor of the heavily ghettoized Newark, should be well-aware of the effect that poverty and poor medical care can have on a population. And, similarly, he should be unwilling to tolerate it.

The Left is rightly denouncing this (in a rare moment of consistency and moral clarity). Meanwhile, conservatives seeking proof that mainstream Democrats (of which Booker is an exemplary figure) have learned nothing from their November trouncing should look no further. In fact, Booker’s cynical gestures of solidarity with minority populations, and his immediate self-refuting actions in the face of financial support, are eerily similar to the actions of none other than Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRussian interference reports rock Capitol Hill Judge dismisses Nunes' lawsuit against Fusion GPS The Hill's Campaign Report: What to watch for in Nevada MORE, pharma’s most expensive mistake of 2016. 

Like Hillary, Booker’s problem is clear. Just like his friend T-Bone, Booker’s commitment to helping black Americans is very much in doubt.

Mytheos Holt (@MytheosHolt) is a senior fellow at the Institute for Liberty. He has worked as a speechwriter for Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoWhere do we go from here? Conservation can show the way Senators to meet with Zelensky after impeachment trial GOP senators defend Sondland, Vindman ousters: They weren't 'loyal' MORE (R-Wyo.), and as a writer for publications including The Federalist.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.