News broke overnight that Billy Tauzin, the Democratic congressman turned Republican turned lobbyist, was stepping down as head of the the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Tauzin led the group when it struck a mid-2009 backroom deal with President Obama and the chair of the Senate Finance Committee. The deal, according to published reports, would have limited the pharmaceutical industry to $80 billion in losses over 10 years under Democratic health care reform. In exchange, drug companies agreed to support reform and the lobby spent some $100 million on a pro-reform push that included lots of television advertisements. What Democrats really got in exchange for the deal with Tauzin, however, was a promise from PhRMA not to oppose reform.
As Jonathan Cohn points out over at the New Republic, Tauzin’s departure may get some people wondering if PhRMA is about to pull out of their deal with the White House. I suppose that’s possible, but this late in the game, it seems unlikely. There is more info and speculation on Tauzin and PhRMA’s motives online today from Politico and the New York Times, which has done the best reporting on Tauzin and the PhRMA deal.
UPDATE: Paul Blumenthal at the Sunlight Foundation posted a step-by-step accounting of the PhRMA deal today and it’s a must read. (h/t Jonathan Cohn)