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Congressional Republican Drug Policy Task Force Formed; Senate Committee Holds Hearings on Drug Policy


February 1996

Republican Congressional leaders have established a joint Senate-House task force to study drug policy issues (Associated Press, December 13, 1995).

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said the Senate-House Task Force on National Drug Policy was formed because the Clinton administration drug strategy is in "utter disarray." He said the current anti-drug strategy puts too much emphasis on treatment of hard-core drug users and not enough on interdiction and law enforcement.

Because of lack of leadership from the White House, children are using more drugs, Congressional leaders said. "Our children are using more dope, more cocaine, and more heroin [than] at any time in recent memory," said Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-KS). "We cannot allow these trends to continue."

The task force will be headed by Sen. Hatch, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), Rep. Bill Zeliff (R-NH), and Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL).

In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Rep. Zeliff wrote that Clinton is lacking in leadership on the drug issue, and "we are reaping the harvest of our complacency" (William H. Zeliff, Jr., "Missing Leader in the Drug War," Washington Post, December 15, 1995, p. A25).

Other members of the task force include: Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-MI), Sen. John Ashcroft (R-MO), Sen. Paul Coverdell (R-GA), Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R-NY), Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH), Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Rep. Michael Forbes (R-NY), Rep. Ben Gilman (R-NY), Rep. Bill McCollum (R-FL), Rep. Rob Portman (R-OH), Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Rep. Clay Shaw (R-FL), and Rep. J.C. Watts (R-OK).

On December 19, the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings on youth drug use and drug policy and released a report calling for greater emphasis on interdiction and law enforcement approaches to stopping drug use. "President Clinton has been AWOL -- absent without leadership -- on the drug issue," Senate Judiciary Chairman Hatch said. "Our country is badly hurt by his abdication of responsibility. ... Just as Nero fiddled while Rome burned, the Clinton Administration fiddles while the drug crisis gets worse and worse."

"Losing Ground Against Drugs," the report released in conjunction with the hearing, warns that drug use is growing, especially among young people. If left unchecked, the report states, a good portion of these young people will become drug addicts. The Clinton administration has consistently cut the budget for interdiction and drug law enforcement, leading to increased availability of drugs on the street at lower prices. The report finds that Clinton's main strategy to deal with the drug problem is treatment of hard-core drug addicts, a plan that is doing nothing to prevent children from becoming involved with drugs in the first place.

[For a copy of the Senate Judiciary Committee report or copies of the testimony given at the hearing, contact the NewsBriefs office.]