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Last Updated:3/31/00
Speech by Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), March 29, 2000
[Page: H1538]
Mr. PORTMAN. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.

Mr. Chairman, I rise to respond to a few of the comments made by my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. The gentleman from Texas (Mr. Rodriguez) just spoke about the fact to focus on our own backyard and not just focus on interdiction and blaming other countries. He also indicated he would be supportive of interdiction, but we needed to do more than that.

The previous speaker talked about the importance of interdiction but also said, while interdiction may make sense, it is not the only thing we should be doing.

I guess what I am here this evening to talk about is the fact that that is not all we are doing in this Congress, and we need to draw attention to that.

Yes, the President has a plan to try to save Colombia, which is a national security issue as well as a substance abuse or drug issue, and it is a crisis. It is appropriate, I think, to deal with that in a supplemental appropriations bill.

But this Congress, Mr. Chairman, over the last several years has made progress on doing exactly what the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Rodriguez) is talking about, what the previous speaker is talking about, looking at this issue in a more comprehensive way. Despite what I have heard on the floor today, I think we need to recognize that and look at the track record of this Congress.

First, on a bipartisan basis, we have passed some good legislation from the Drug Free Communities Act, for instance, we passed in 1997. It supports community-based solutions. It focuses on prevention, education, and treatment. It brings all segments of the community together and forces them to deal with the problem in a comprehensive way. It is working.

There are about 3,000 community coalitions now around the country. We hope to double that in the next several years. Incidentally, we are looking for $40 million for that program this year in the appropriations process. Those who have spoken today and who care about this issue might want to focus on that. The administration requested only $35 million, under the authorized amount.

The National Youth Antidrug Media Campaign this Congress passed a few years ago, the funding started 2 years ago, an unprecedented amount of Federal support from this Congress to support, yes, an antidrug media campaign that focuses on prevention. It is working. The ads are being tested. $185 million was appropriated by this Congress last year for that program. Over the 5-year period for which it is authorized by this Congress, we will spend, when we conclude the private match over $2 billion, the largest media campaign in history on drugs or any other issue.

This is something this Congress has done, and we need to do more of it. We need to continue to support that. I have not heard much about that today.

The Drug Demand Reduction Act we passed in 1998 increases the effectiveness of the Safe and Drug Free Schools Act. It authorizes the media campaign I just talked about. It streamlines the antidrug bureaucracy we have of 54 different departments and agencies, to reduce the duplication.

If my colleagues want to be supportive of what is going on here in our backyard, there are lots of ways to do it. There is the Drug Free Workplace Act, which again has been a bipartisan effort of this Congress. We got about $4 million provided in last year's budget. We are going for more this year. For those who care about issue, through the normal appropriations process, my colleagues will have an opportunity to support the Drug Free Workplace Act. It establishes a new grant program for nonprofits to expand on drug-free workplaces. It also has the Small Business Administration involved directly in efforts to promote drug-free workplaces.

We are asking to do even more in the area of prevention, education, and treatment this year in the appropriations process. I am delighted we have had this debate today, because I have found there is a lot more support for it than I thought there was.

I am not sure the supplemental appropriations bill is the right place to do it. Let us take it through the normal process. Let us support what we have already done. Let us build on that.

This year, let us have a teen drivers' act, where when teens go to get their driver's license, they are asked to be tested. There is a monitoring of that. There is an incentive through insurance discounts if they do it, a voluntary program with real discounts and real incentives.

Let us put enhanced treatment in our jails, in our prisons. If we talk to folks who are involved in this, the only way, we believe, to stop the revolving door to cut that link between addiction and crime is to get more treatment in our jails and prisons. Only 9 percent of prisoners today at those levels are getting that kind of treatment.

[TIME: 1800]

We do not have a Federal program to do that now. We need one. The money we would dump into SAMSHA would not help in that regard. That is something this Congress can work on in a bipartisan basis, and there will be proposals to do that later this year. This is something that we can do and we can do through the regular order.

My only point is not that we should not be focused on the comprehensive picture, it is that we have been. And this Congress, over the last few years, has a lot to be proud of in terms of focus and in terms of resources, putting unprecedented amounts of money into prevention, education, and treatment. We need now to build on that. We need not, though, at the same time, to say that there is not an issue with regard to interdiction.

I have tended to focus more on the demand side. But if we take our eye off the ball on the supply side, what will happen? We will get increased supplies from foreign countries and what we will have is also reduced cost and cost is a factor in this. So we need to do both. It needs to be a balanced approach. We need to reduce demand for drugs, and we need to help move this country toward a drug free America.

The Speaker spoke earlier today about his willingness to do that. He spoke about his willingness through the regular process, not through the crisis in Colombia, but through the regular process to enhance our efforts on prevention, education and treatment, and I think this Congress ought to take him up on that.

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