This Week in Congress Part Two: NDAA, Farm Bill, and Opioids

The U.S. Senate continues work on the NDAA. The big question remains if Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee will be able to offer amendments forbidding the government from indefinitely detaining American citizens. Yesterday Senator Paul tried to get unanimous consent to offer his amendment, but it was blocked by Senator Lindsey Graham. You can see Senator Paul’s initial remarks here, and his response to Lindsey Graham at this link.

Today, the Senate Agriculture Committee will be marking-up their version of the Farm Bill. The Senate bill contains none of the food stamp reforms contained in the house bill, while continuing to shovel taxpayer money to big agribusiness.

The committee will be considering approximately 180 amendments, including some by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley to restrict the provision providing subsidies to relatives of farmers who participate in farm management. The amendment also eliminates special payments for peanuts and cotton. Grassley’s amendment reflects what was done in 2014 and changed since then.

And now to the House’s suspension calendar.

The majority of the suspensions deal with the war on opioids. As you read my description, keep in mind these are written by people who claim to be against government control of health care and claim to respect constitutional limits on government power;

  1. H.R. 3331 — Allows the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to make incentive payments to behavioral professionals to encourage them to adopt electronic health care records and encourages coordination among health care providers.

  2. H.R. 4284 — Creates a new position in the Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate opioid addiction programs among federal agencies and state and local governments.

  3. H.R. 5002 — Expands the “unique research initiatives authority of the National Institute of Health,” to focus the agency on “cutting edge research.” Of course, this is what most people think the NIH has been doing all along. The problem with this bill is the same as with all federally-funded research: it assumes that federal bureaucrats can know what research is cutting-edge and deserves funding. It also ignores the problem of that which is not seen — the cures and other breakthroughs that would occur if resources were left to the marketplace.

  4. H.R. 5009 — Requires the federal government to develop “best practices” for including information about opioid addiction in medical records. This seems good, but there are legitimate concerns about whether this could violate the privacy of former addicts who wish to keep their past hidden, since so-called medical privacy laws do not protect privacy. Read Campaign for Liberty Chairman Ron Paul’s comments on how federal medical privacy laws shred our privacy here.

  5. H.R. 5102 — Creates a federal loan repayment program for people who complete service in a substance use disorder treatment job in a mental health professional shortage area or a county where the drug overdose death rate is higher than the national average.

  6. H.R. 5176 — Instructs the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a protocol for treatment of patients discharged from emergency rooms for overdoses and enhance their integration of treatments for addicts. This assumes medicine “works better” when managed by government bureaucrats in DC. . . . so much for Republicans believing in free-market health care.

  7. H.R. 5202 — Instructs the Justice Department to set up regulations for pharmacies to deliver controlled substances prescribed by a doctor to treat addiction.

  8. H.R. 5228 — Gives the FDA new powers to regulate and ban synthetic drugs (which have the same effects as illegal drugs but have different ingredients).

  9. H.R. 5261 — Creates a new grant program to fund “centers of excellence” at colleges to teach how to combat addiction.

  10. H.R. 6272 — Requires federal programs to treat opioid addiction be “evidence-based.” (Yes, they must pass a law to make sure their government-funded programs are basing their procedures on evidence of what works and what does not.)

  11. H.R. 5327 — Another grant program — this one to establish comprehensive opioid recovery centers.

  12. H.R. 5353 — Authorizes $40 million dollars to assist in service and education regarding diseases caused via injecting drugs.

  13. H.R. 4275 — Creates a new federal program to educate pharmacists on when they can refuse to fill prescriptions by claiming they are fraudulent, forged, or substance abuse.

  14. H.R. 5583 — Requires State Medicaid programs to report on behavioural health of Medicaid recipients.

  15. H.R. 5294 — Allows the Appalachian Regional Commission to support projects relating to drug abuse.

  16. H.R. 5752 — Puts new restrictions on importing items that can be used to make illegal or highly regulated drugs.

  17. H.R. 5992 — Creates a grant program to prevent student and student athlete opioid abuse.

  18. H.R. 5891 — Creates a federal task force to improve how federal agencies respond to the opioid crisis.

  19. H.R. 5892 — Creates an advisory commission to advise the Labor Department on how they can help end opioid abuse in the workplace. (One idea might be to “allow” employers to fire or otherwise discipline addicts without fear of legal repercussions.