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Last Updated:3/31/00
Speech by Rep. Patsy Mink (D-Hawaii), March 29, 2000
Mrs. MINK of Hawaii. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.

Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the Pelosi amendment. It is unfortunate that this House is not being given the opportunity to have a full debate about the very important aspects of drug treatment and drug prevention. I believe that it was a sorry mistake when her amendment was not allowed to come before this body.

The only reason this issue is pending before the House is because we have in this emergency supplemental a $1.7 billion appropriation for intervention in Colombia. That would lead us to believe that this Congress, at least, understands that the drug problem that we face here in America is very serious. But what is wrong is that we have undertaken to look at this problem as though it is only a problem from the source and the supply.

We have a serious problem here with respect to a control of the demand. And we know that all the literature tells us that if we have adequate treatment programs for people who even want treatment that they can be helped.

If we have truly the authority of this House to take full account of emergency supplemental appropriations, there is no justification for our not including in this emergency, if we are going to include the supply end of a Colombia appropriation, by not taking into account also the needed funds that we could use for an enhanced drug treatment program. It goes together. Supply and demand cannot be separated.

We look at the appropriations that are going to Colombia, $1.7 billion is going to purchase 60-some-odd helicopters. I serve on the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources as the ranking member of the Committee on Government Reform. We had hearings on this matter and we were told that, from the viewpoint of the production of these helicopters, it is going to take years before they are in supply actually to Colombia and years more after that before the people there are going to be trained in order to use this equipment.

The engagement of our military in this kind of activity, which is going to put them in harm's way, get us messed up into a civil strife within that country, I think is a terrible mistake.

But aside from that, this body is now considering an important issue, and that is drugs, drug abuse in our country; and we are pretending as though this is only a supply issue and that, if we spend a billion dollars in Colombia, it will correct the problem. It will not.

I had the opportunity with my subcommittee to travel to Colombia about a year ago. It is a country that has enormous problems of poverty, corruption, lack of control of its own territory. Forty percent of Colombia is under the control of the rebels.

There is no possibility that our intervention of 60-plus helicopters is going to be able to control that situation. If we had alternate crops for the farmers there to produce to get into the market, the biggest problem is infrastructure, how would they get it from their farms into the market. There is none out in the countryside.

The lack of control by Mr. Pastrana over his country is absolutely sad. I have the greatest admiration for Mr. Pastrana. I met him and talked with him. I understand his problem. But there is no way that $1 billion of our taxpayers' money is going to solve this problem for him.

However, if we are going to do it, at the very minimum we ought to be looking at this as a balanced issue. And the issue is, if it is going to take 5 years for those helicopters to actually be delivered, if we appropriated today $600 million or a billion dollars for drug treatment tomorrow, those addicts and victims out there of heroin and cocaine addiction will have treatment. They are waiting in line now. We are told that only 50 percent of those that actually come to a center wanting treatment are actually provided any sort of help.

So this country is in real distress. And so I counter with the argument that, if we are truly dealing with emergency and if we are going to attack the supply issue as an emergency subject matter, there is no justification for our not including as part of that emergency an augmented treatment program to help the people in this country get rid of this addiction and cut down on the demand. I think that is the legitimate way to go.

I hope that the Pelosi amendment will be approved.

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