Now that Bart Stupak’s leaving? I wonder if the netroots have only strengthened the more conservative elements in the Democratic party by pushing him out. Except for abortion rights (big exception, I know), Bart was still a progressive vote on most issues. Now, if we lose the seat to another wingnut, what exactly have we accomplished?
The answer is unclear, although no doubt many pharma execs and FDA officials won’t miss Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat who is retiring from Congress after a nasty brawl over health care reform and, in particular, abortion coverage (background here).
As chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, Stupak regularly took on safety issues. Along with John Dingell, who formerly headed the House committee, Stupak investigted Merck and Schering-Plough for allegedly delaying the release of unfavorable clinical trial data for their Vytorin cholesterol med (see here and here). He also subpoenaed FDA investigators for approving the Ketek antibiotic, despite knowing a key safety study was fraught with problems; Sanofi-Aventis execs were also grilled at a hearing (look here).
Other claims to fame include probing the FDA’s handling of Baxter’s Heparin, the blood thinner linked to hundreds of patient reactions and four deaths; TV ads for Pfizer’s Lipitor; and Roche’s Accutane, which was a very personal issue for Stupak. In 2000, his 17-year-old son, who was using the acne med, committed suicide. Stupak personally investigated whether the drug could be tied to psychiatric side effects, and went to FDA headquarters to sift through documents. During one hearing, he held up the packaging from his son’s prescription.
So who might succeed Stupak? The Pink Sheet speculates the possibilities include Elliot Engel of New York, Gene Green of Texas and Diana DeGette of Colorado, who have seniority on the full committee.