By Michael Ginsberg
Democratic Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy blocked a vote on a bill introduced by Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio that would prohibit the federal government from funding drug paraphernalia distribution.
Rubio and Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin introduced the Preventing Illicit Paraphernalia for Exchange Systems (PIPES) Act on Feb. 11, following a report that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would fund the distribution of crack pipes and other drug paraphernalia. The White House and HHS later denied that the $30 million grant program would fund crack pipes, with Press Secretary Jen Psaki saying that the safe smoking kits would only include “alcohol swabs, lip balm, other materials to promote hygiene and reduce the transmission of diseases like HIV and hepatitis.”
However, Rubio noted, the HHS confirmed in a letter to Republican Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn that the safe smoking kits would include mouthpieces.
“A mouthpiece isn’t what you think, it isn’t some flat thing that you put on your mouth. The mouthpiece is basically the cylindrical tube, straw-looking thing, that you attach to the crack pipe. Now the pipe will have to be shared by the addicts, but they’re each going to have their own little tube that they can attach to smoke it. I just don’t think the federal government should be paying for that,” Rubio said.
“Apparently they don’t want to send out the crack pipes, but they do want to send out the tubes that are attached to the crack pipes,” he added, while disputing the idea that there can be a “safe way” to smoke crack or methamphetamines.
Rubio requested unanimous consent to pass the bill, but Leahy objected, describing the entire issue as a “misunderstanding.”
“The administration stated clearly that they never authorized the use of federal funding for a smoke pipe, and won’t in the future. I don’t think any administration has,” Leahy said, claiming that Rubio’s bill would “cripple our ability to respond to addiction.”
“We actually have to go to the CR now,” he continued, referring to the resolution that would fund the federal government through March 11. Government funding expires on Friday, Feb. 18. Leahy added that a shutdown would harm American credibility amid a potential invasion of Ukraine by Russia. (RELATED: House Releases Short-Term Funding Bill With Shutdown Less Than 2 Weeks Away)
Russian President Vladimir “Putin will say, ‘Why should I listen to them?’”
Rubio pointed out that the Senate could not vote on the resolution to fund the government with too few senators in the chamber.
However, he added, if Putin is paying attention, “I think he’d be wondering, ‘Why would I be scared of a country that’s about to send out cylindrical tubing to people addicted to crack and meth?’”