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John C.
Republican TX

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  • Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Bill

    by Senator John Cornyn

    Posted on 2016-02-29

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    CORNYN. Madam President, as we have heard from the Senator from West Virginia, this week the Senate will begin consideration of a bipartisan bill that targets an epidemic that is raging across the country, but apparently it is especially hard-hitting in places such as West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the like. But this abuse of prescription painkillers and heroin is not just isolated to those areas, even though the leaders of this particular legislation come from places such as Minnesota, Rhode Island, Ohio, and New Hampshire. Sadly, Texas has been no exception.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in Texas opioid-related drug deaths have increased by 30 percent since 2002. Houston is widely recognized by the DEA and law enforcement officials as a key hub for the trafficking of illicit prescription drugs. In South Texas, right next to the U.S.-Mexico border, the transnational criminal organizations are exploiting our porous border to import increasingly large amounts of hard narcotics like heroin, which ultimately wreaks havoc in towns and cities across America.

    In 2014 alone, drug cartels successfully smuggled more than 250,000 pounds of heroin across our borders and into the United States at a street value of approximately $25 billion. These are the same criminals who traffic in human beings, including young girls and boys. These are the same people who traffic in illegal immigrants. These are the same people who traffic in illegal drugs. Indeed, this has become such big business and the network so large that these transnational criminal organizations are basically in on everything and anything that will make them money, including transporting these terrible drugs like heroin across the border.

    As we all know and have heard, this epidemic destroys families, it increases the crime rate, and it robs millions of Americans of their future. As I mentioned a moment ago, thousands are dying every year. That is why the bill we are voting on this afternoon, called the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, is so important. It will help give families and law enforcement additional resources to beat drug addiction through proven treatment programs. I am proud to cosponsor the legislation.

    The reason we have been able to move this bill forward so far--and it passed unanimously out of the Senate Judiciary Committee 2 weeks ago-- is because it reflects bipartisan input as well as bipartisan concern with this epidemic.

    As I mentioned earlier, I wish to particularly recognize the junior Senators from Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Ohio--Senators Whitehouse, Portman, and Ayotte--for their laserlike focus on this legislation and making sure that it is at the top of our list of things we need to do this legislative session. By highlighting how bad the problem is in our country and providing legislation to address it, they [[Page S1067]] are helping us attack this epidemic head-on.

    I must say that while so far this legislation has moved forward on a strong bipartisan basis, there are some signals on the horizon that indicate some potential trouble. At a press conference after the Judiciary Committee unanimously passed the bill, several of our friends on the other side of the aisle were explicit. They said that if the Senate did not add hundreds of millions of dollars in duplicative funding, they might withhold their support.

    This legislation is an authorization bill, and it does not appropriate funds. Our friends across the aisle know that if an appropriation is added to this legislation, particularly if it is duplicative, it causes a number of problems. First of all, a spending bill can't originate here in the Senate. So it raises a so-called blue- slip problem. But perhaps just as importantly, this is not an orderly process by which we determine what is actually needed and to make sure that we are appropriating money in a fiscally responsible sort of way.

    I don't have to remind the Acting President pro tempore or anybody else who is listening that we have a $19 trillion debt in our country, and recklessly throwing money at a problem rather than carefully targeting it in a fiscally responsible way is simply irresponsible.

    It seems to be part of the message: Give us what we want or we might hijack a bipartisan bill that would literally save lives. I hope I am wrong, and I hope the signals on the horizon don't prove to ultimately be true. But it does seem like this is part of a new political strategy.

    Earlier this month, we know that our Democrat colleagues blocked a bipartisan Energy bill from moving forward on an unrelated issue-- something on which Senator Murkowski has shown the patience of Job, trying to work through this process so we can get back on the Energy bill rather than having it hijacked by an extraneous subject that could well and should well be handled in a different way, certainly separately.

    This is not the way the Senate gets anything accomplished. As I have said before, playing political games with important issues like fighting drug addiction is what lost our friends the majority in 2014. I urge the Democratic leadership to listen to those in their own caucus who have worked alongside Republicans in a responsible fashion to draft and put forward this bill that is so clearly needed in this country.

    This afternoon I hope we will move forward on the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. I hope we will consider it and consider amendments that are being offered in good faith on both sides to try to improve the legislation. But what we should not do is allow anyone to hijack this important legislation for partisan purposes. I think we should restrain ourselves from any impulse to do so. It happened, unfortunately, on the bipartisan Energy bill. It has been threatened on this legislation. But my hope is that cooler heads will prevail.

    I yield the floor.

    I suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The clerk will call the roll.

    The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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