This vote was on an amendment by David Vitter, R-La., that would prohibit the Customs and Border Protection service from seizing prescription drugs imported from Canada. The amendment was offered to the bill that funds the Homeland Security Department in fiscal 2010.
Vitter said his amendment is straightforward and mirrors language adopted by the Senate in 2006. He also noted that the amendment does not prohibit other federal law enforcement agencies or bodies from prohibiting prescription drugs from being imported from Canada.
“This amendment simply prohibits funds in the bill from being used by Customs and Border security to prevent the reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada only and for personal use only. So it is a reimportation amendment but only from Canada and only for personal use,” Vitter said. Proponents of reimportation say prescription drugs are often cheaper in Canada and that as long as someone has a doctor’s note, it should not matter where an individual wants to purchase their prescribed medications.
Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he is opposed to the amendment because current law already says Customs cannot stop an individual from bringing in 90 days worth of a prescription drug from Canada, if they bring it in on their person. He said he is opposed to the amendment because it would “radically alter what happens at the border.”
“This would be an open door for criminals to get into Americans’ medicine cabinets,” Hatch said, noting that Vitter’s amendment would make prescription drugs available via mail order or through the Internet.
“This creates a problem with drugs coming not from Canada but through Canada. Many of the drugs ordered online today are purported to be from Canada, but when GAO and others investigate, they are found to be from other countries,” Hatch said.
By a vote of 55-36, the amendment was adopted. Of Democrats present, 43 voted for the amendment and nine voted against it. Of Republicans present, 10 voted for the amendment and 27 voted against it. The end result is that the measure went forward with language that would prohibit the U.S. Customs Service from preventing individuals from importing prescription drugs from Canada via mail order or through the Internet.