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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today delivered the following remarks during the committee’s Executive Session.
Remarks as delivered:
Thank you, Senator Cantwell, for convening today's executive session. We now have a quorum. And so I will speak briefly about just a few items of legislation that we will mark up. I am pleased we are marking up the Maritime Administration Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023. This legislation would double the size of the US Tanker Security Program to ensure that our military vessels have adequate access to fuel when they are responding to a national emergency.
The bill includes my Improving Protection for Midshipmen Act, which would strengthen prevention, response, investigation, and accountability regarding sexual assault and sexual harassment in the maritime industry. It would provide additional safeguards to protect midshipmen and the United States Merchant Marine Academy. These thoughtful reforms should not be further delayed. The MARAD Reauthorization Act would provide funding to support maritime technical education, improvements to the efficiency and effectiveness of the Marine Highways program, and continue support for the primary grant program for ports. This bill reflects several months of work, and I want to thank Senator Cantwell and the staff for both the Democrat and Republican side for their efforts.
Lastly, I will vote in favor of S.4293, The Pharmacy Benefit Manager Transparency Act, but with some misgivings. Pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, play a key role in a complex ecosystem that regrettably often results in higher drug prices for consumers. Independent community pharmacies can also be harmed by uncompetitive practices. S.4293 aims to increase transparency in the drug pricing market and eliminate manipulative practices such as spread pricing, a practice wherein PBMs charge a health insurance plan more to process a prescription than [it] reimburses the pharmacy. However, I believe long term solutions to the factors that are driving high drug prices should come from the subject matter experts in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
Last month, the committee held a contentious markup of the Transportation Fuel Market Transparency Act, which would regulate issues in the jurisdiction of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. S.4293, today's PBM bill, adds to this troubling pattern of the Commerce Committee majority trying to use the Federal Trade Commission as a catch-all hook to legislate in areas not within this committee's jurisdiction or within our expertise.
The FTC has already received significant criticism under Chair Lina Khan for abandoning longstanding policy stances and expanding the agency's authority. We should be extremely careful not to use the FTC to legislate outside Commerce’s jurisdiction, and I'm concerned that this practice may become routine. I will vote to advance the bill today, but I would also caution my colleagues against any further steps along these lines. And I urge the chair to focus more intently on reaching bipartisan compromise on core priorities that are clearly within our jurisdiction.
Thank you, Senator Cantwell.