OFFICE OF NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL POLICY REAUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - March 09, 2006)
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Mr. PAUL. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 2 1/2 minutes.
(Mr. PAUL asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. PAUL. Mr. Chairman, my amendment is very simple. I thought it would be very noncontroversial, because it merely sunsets our provision. We have just gone through a period of time of 2 years where there has been no authorizations, but we have done appropriations as necessary.
The amendment merely says, this act shall not be in effect after September 30, 2011. So that is 5 years, which I think is very adequate. But I would want to express my agreement with the authors of this particular bill, because we do have a very serious problem in this country with drugs.
I, as a physician, am very much aware of the seriousness of it. I also agree that prescription drugs are probably every bit as bad or much worse, because there is so much dependency on psychotropic drugs.
But, nevertheless, I come down on the side of saying no matter how good legislation like this is, it backfires; there are too many unintended consequences. In such a short period of time, all I can suggest to my colleagues is that prohibition in the ultimate sense was tried with alcohol.
And alcohol is still now a severe problem in this country. And we knew that Prohibition produced many more problems than the alcohol itself. I think that is true with drugs. I think we have allowed ourselves to be carried away, to a large degree, because now we have laws that lack compassion. We do know, in the medical field, that marijuana can be helpful to cancer patients and AIDS patients can be helped where our drugs are not helpful; and to me this is just sad that we override State laws that permit it.
The overwhelming number of people in the country now are saying that we ought to allow marijuana to be used for very sick patients. Not too long ago, just this week, I had a meeting with a student that came from a central Asian country. He was an exchange student. He says the big subject at his school was, what is the age limit when I can drink alcohol? They would ask him that and he said, there is no age limit.
So I asked him, I said, is there a drinking problem in your country? And he says no. He says it is uneventful. It is the excitement of something being illegal that actually makes the problem a lot worse.
And even in our country, we had a grand experiment from the beginning of our country up until about 35 years ago. We had very few of these laws. Yet all we can notice now is that we have spent, in today's dollars, over $200 billion in the last 35 years, and we do not have a whole lot to show for it.
So I would grant you there is a serious problem. We should do whatever we can to help. I just do not think more legislation is required.
Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. SOUDER. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I might consume. On the surface it looks fairly mild, but it is actually an attempt to eliminate the drug czar's office.
The gentleman from Texas is certainly the most principled Libertarian that we have in the Congress and probably one of the most principled Libertarians in the country. I presume he would favor sunsetting most Departments in the Federal Government. The question is, why would we single out the drug czar's office?
We have many programs that are unauthorized. That is an unfortunate thing. I believe all programs should, in fact, be authorized; and that is why we are going through this authorization. It got lost at the end of the last session in the Senate side, and we are proceeding again with Senate support.
It would be tragic if we got in the position where each Department, if Congress could not decide on the exact wording of the authorization bill, the office suddenly disappeared, and we would not have a national anti-drug media, we would not have the HIDTA programs, we would not have the technology that goes forth.
Dr. Paul and I have deep differences on the effectiveness of narcotics. We both share a skepticism in the ability of government to solve things. But I believe in the drug policy area we can at least make a difference. And I believe it is an important difference.
He and I have our deep philosophical differences on this, but I very much respect his consistent opposition, basically to most legislation that comes forth in front of Congress. But I need to oppose this amendment.
This amendment would have the effect of singling out the Office of National Drug Control Policy solely among Cabinet positions to be put under this regulation. And it could, indeed, like many other programs that we do not get reauthorization, such as juvenile justice, such as Head Start, has at times not had its authorization, we have many different programs that do not get authorized.
We would not want to fold those programs merely because the two bodies could not agree on their final wording.
I also would like to at this time, I got a copy of the administration's statement of policy of why they oppose this bill, in spite of the fact it has gone unanimously through the subcommittee, unanimously through the full committee, gone with complete support of multiple other committees in Congress.
It is, quite frankly, a relatively insulting document. It says, for example, that it infringes on the prerogatives of the executive by designating ONDCP as a Cabinet-level official. As we explained earlier, that is not what the law says it does.
It says it has to be treated like a Cabinet-level position. Which, by the way, was what Congress passed in the beginning. It was a congressional designation. The bill duplicates the drug certification process, is another one of their complaints at the State Department. That is true. But ONDCP is a narcotics agency, and they should be advising the State Department, which has multiple different concerns when they do certification. It complains about the interdiction coordinator in the Department of Homeland Security being under a national drug control strategy, which seems odd that ONDCP would be objecting to this being in their Department.
Once again, it reiterates that they want to move the HIDTAs away right now in the Justice Department from ONDCP. The reason we have them there is the State and locals were drawn into HIDTA relationship where they had a vote and could have influence in the decision-making.
The administration's proposals would gut the funding, over half of it; would take away the vote of State and local officials, all of whom said unanimously they would withdraw from the program if the administration persists with this, which was denied in both Houses last year, denied overwhelmingly again by their own people.
When the narcotics officers of America unanimously oppose this, when the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas unanimously oppose it, how can the administration keep sending up this type of document? They are supposed to be the leaders of the world on narcotics, not fighting every police officer in America, every State trooper in America, every HIDTA in America. I do not understand this.
It also says that we are reducing its flexibility in the National Anti-drug Media Campaign. We certainly are. Because we are frustrated that they have not dealt with the problem of methamphetamine. So that allegation happens to be true. We are reducing the flexibility because he has refused to respond to the counties of America that methamphetamine is their number one problem in America, to the HIDTAs; and particularly he has been after the methamphetamine HIDTAs that were created, the Rocky Mountain HIDTA, the Missouri HIDTA, the Iowa HIDTA.
It has been very frustrating to see this persistent, persistent, even after we passed the Methamphetamine Act this past week, even as we moved this bill through, continuing to resist the efforts of Congress to try to tackle the problems of methamphetamine.
Also they dislike that we have restricted their reprogramming ability. Yes we have restricted their reprogramming ability, because every time the local HIDTAs or others try to deal with the methamphetamine problem, they want to reprogram the money away from the problem. So we have given them most of the flexibility there.
But while some of their charges are true, they fail to point out why the House and Senate unanimously from both parties are so frustrated that we have had to go forth with this. It would be tragic if my friend from Texas's amendment passed and would not let us move forward with this bill.
Mr. PAUL. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 3/4 minutes to the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Waters).
Ms. WATERS. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the amendment by the gentleman from Texas that calls for the sunset of this legislation in 5 years, if enacted.
You know, I have heard a lot from the other side of the aisle about poverty programs that did not work, and I saw a lot of work to get rid of those programs.
This is a program that does not work. We need to get rid of it, and we need to get serious about doing something about drugs in America. We are sitting here talking about these HIDTAs. We are talking about advertisements while we have an unprotected border with the drug lords shooting it out with our sheriffs down in Texas and other places, bringing drugs into our country.
HIDTA does nothing to stop that. We have the deaths from overdoses from methamphetamines, crack cocaine, cocaine, pills, Ecstasy, heroin, marijuana, you name it. And we are doing nothing. America can do better than this.
Why should we keep a program without reviewing it, just put it into law forever? This is what you are trying to do. We need to sunset it. Period. As a matter of fact, I would get rid of it; it would not even be authorized. But if you insist, at least review it. Why do you want to put it in law forever without the kind of reviews that are necessary to determine its effectiveness?
This does not work. It is costing the American taxpayers $870 million to run this ineffective program. I think we should get rid of it, and I support the gentleman's amendment.
Mr. SOUDER. Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent that each side be given 2 additional minutes.
The Acting CHAIRMAN (Mr. Miller of Florida). Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Indiana?
There was no objection.
Mr. PAUL. Mr. Chairman, how much time do I have remaining?
The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Texas has 3 minutes remaining.
Mr. PAUL. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself the balance of my time.
Mr. Chairman, earlier I mentioned that prohibition was a total failure with alcohol and that it is very similar, and I think the gentleman from Indiana helped make my point. He is a bit frustrated with the enforcement of the laws on the books, and for what reason I do not know, but we certainly ought to be frustrated with the results. But the laws are difficult to enforce and I understand and sense his frustration with this.
One of the major reasons why I object to this approach is not only the cost. The cost is pretty important and I think it is pretty important to realize it does not work very well, if at all; but we also ought to look at the damage done with our mistaken thoughts that this is doing a lot of good.
Once a war is declared, whether it is a war overseas or whether it is a domestic war on some evil here, that is when the American people should look out for their civil liberties. There, the issue of privacy is attacked. So now we have a war on terrorism and we have the PATRIOT Act and all these other things that intrude on the civil rights and civil liberties of Americans, and, at the same time, not achieving a whole lot of good results.
This is what happens when there is a war on. Those people who are trying to avoid taxes, all law-abiding citizens have to obey all these laws. So as soon as there is a war, look out for your civil liberties and your privacy. The war on drugs has done a great deal of harm to our right of privacy.
Once again, I agree with the argument, there are a great deal of problems in this country with the illegal use of drugs, but what I am saying is it does not help to have this type of a war on drugs because it tends to distort things. It raises prices artificially high. It causes all kind of ramifications that actually cause more killing and dying. This is why prohibition of alcohol was stopped, because people died from drinking bad alcohol, and the gangs sold the alcohol. The same thing happens today.
Like I mentioned, that student that lived in the country, and he was 16 years old, and there were no rules or laws against teenagers drinking beer or alcohol and there was no problem. Kids did not drink. It was not exciting to do it. So there is a certain element of truth to that. Kids smoking cigarettes is against the law. You sneak off and smoke cigarettes. That happens to be what teenagers do.
So no matter how well-intended legislation like this is, it tends to have too many unintended consequences, it costs too much money. And we fail to realize that we in this country live with a greater amount of personal liberty and respect for State and local law enforcement, we had less drug problems. Think about it. Through the latter part of the 18th century, the 19th century, the early part of the 20th century, essentially no laws, and we had a lot less problems.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.
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