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GOP Congressional Anti-Drug Task Force Pushing Large Anti-Drug Package Through Congress


May-June 1998

Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-IL), chairman of the GOP's anti-drug task force, aims to pass a legislative package this year which he claims will significantly decrease drug use among Americans by the year 2002 (Fredreka Schouten, "GOP Senators Want Drugs Tackled Along With Tobacco," Home News Tribune (East Brunswick, NJ), May 7, 1998, p. A6; Newt Gingrich, "Winning the War on Drugs," Op-Ed, Washington Times (Weekly Edition), May 4-10, 1998; Alison Mitchell, "G.O.P. and Democrats Intensify Mutual Attacks," New York Times, April 30, 1998, p. A28; Marcus Stern, "Republicans Plan Major Campaign For Drug-Free America," San Diego Union Tribune, April 25, 1998).

On March 24, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich (R-GA), announced the formation of a GOP task force for a Drug-Free America. At the U.S. Capitol rally the GOP called a "Deployment Ceremony," he said "there is no mission more vital to the future of our country than protecting our children from illegal drugs."

The task force has targeted three main "fronts" for a more effective anti-drug effort: 1) "deterring demand" through education and prevention programs; 2) "stopping supply" by eradicating cultivation of drug-producing plants and arresting drug traffickers before they enter the U.S.; and 3) "increasing accountability" by empowering additional agencies at every level of government to fight the "war on drugs." More than 100 House Republicans reportedly plan to endorse twelve anti-drug bills being developed by the task force.

On the "deterring demand" front, Republicans offered such measures as the Drug-Free America Blue Ribbon Campaign Resolution, in which the week of September 13-19, 1998 would be designated as Blue Ribbon Week. During that week everyone will be encouraged to wear a blue ribbon to show their commitment to a zero-tolerance drug policy. Another measure, the Drug-Free Student Loans Amendment (H.R. 6) to the Higher Education Act of 1998, sponsored by U.S. Reps. Mark Souder (R-IN) and Gerald Solomon (R-NY), would deny federal loans to college students convicted of drug possession.

The "increasing accountability" front includes a measure (H.R. 2610), the Needle Ban-Plus Bill, which would permanently ban federal funding of needle exchanges.

Senate Republicans are joining in the election-year anti-drug campaign. Sen. Paul Coverdell (R-GA) attached a massive anti-drug amendment (No. 2451) to the McCain tobacco bill (S.B. 1415). Included in the amendment is a measure comparable to Megan's Law (which notifies police and sometimes citizens when a convicted child molester moves into a neighborhood) that calls for the registration of convicted drug traffickers with the state in which they reside, hold a job, or attain an education. It would permit officials to release information of a convicted drug dealer's residence to the public.

On June 17, the Senate voted to effectively killed the tobacco bill (S.B. 1415) by sending it back to the Commerce Committee.

Rep. Dennis Hastert - 2241 RHOB, Washington, DC 20515, Tel: (202) 225-2976, Fax: (202) 225-0697, E-mail: <>.

Sen. Paul Coverdell - SR-200, Washington, DC 20510, Tel: (202) 224-3643, Fax: (202) 228-3783, E-mail: <>.