Obama and PhRMA: Deal or No Deal?

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Yesterday’s New York Times report of a behind-the-scenes deal between the White House and the drug lobby is causing no small degree of consternation among Democrats on Capitol Hill. Over at HuffPost, Ryan Grim is reporting that Senators received assurances from the White House that there was no deal that would prevent Medicare from negotiating directly with the drug companies to get lower prices for seniors.

I spent some time yesterday checking on all of this, and while it is difficult to reconstruct precisely what would have been said behind closed doors, it seems that there was indeed a deal. It was a very good one for PhRMA that would break a campaign promise that Barack Obama made when he was running for President, and it represents precisely the kind of politics that Rahm Emanuel used to decry when he was in Congress and the Republicans were doing it. Over at Slate, Tim Noah deconstructs the history on all sides and calls it “easily the dumbest mistake [Obama]’s made in shepherding health reform through Congress. … Mr. President, you’ve been played for a sucker.”

This whole saga does present more evidence of what we’ve seen all along this year, most notably with Obama’s flexibility on the question of what he will accept as a public option. The President wants a win on health reform. Did the White House get taken? Or did it make a shrewd tactical move? We won’t know the answer to that until we see what–if anything–passes under the title of “health reform” this year.