BOSTON (CBS) – Remember the 60 Minutes/Washington Post report back in October documenting how the opioid distribution industry, with Obama administration sign off, slipped a bill through Congress that former federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials claimed were an important roadblock to the battle against the opioid crisis?
Amid a tsunami of political alarm over opioid addiction, it seemed like a call to action, with President Trump saying “we’re gonna look into the report, we’re gonna take it very seriously.”
But six months later, there hasn’t been any action.
In December, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) introduced a bill to repeal restrictions on DEA’s ability to crack down on irresponsible distributors, a bill she called “the crowning achievement of the distribution industry.”
But McCaskill’s bill has stalled.
She tells The Hill newspaper she can’t get a single GOP senator to sign on, even though Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said he supports repeal.
The measure has powerful defenders, including Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who said at a hearing in December that “the purpose of this provision was to encourage greater cooperation between DEA and supply-chain members.”
Hatch and others also argue that crackdowns on suppliers could impede legitimate patient access to the potent painkillers.
But McCaskill isn’t buying it.
“It’s truly outrageous that at the height of the opioid crisis, distributors would use this concern to justify stripping DEA of its ability to police the drug delivery pipeline,” she says.
Could election-year politics be playing a role here? The Hill speculates that because McCaskill and a co-sponsor of the repeal, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) are considered to be vulnerable Democratic incumbents this fall, Republicans are reluctant to hand them a win on such a high-profile topic.
If true, it would hardly be the first time partisan politics trumped policy in Washington.