Tuesday, February 27, 2018
Opioids and Guns : Different Issues but the Same Democrat Posturing
THE REAL NEWS TODAY IS ABOUT OPIOIDS AND GUNS. • CONGRESS AND THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC. The Democrats are divided and it is preventing any useful action on the opioid epidemic that is ravaging some towns in America. TheHill reported on Sunday that : "Congress is moving to take a second crack at opioid legislation, with lawmakers broadly agreeing that they need to do more to deal with a crisis that’s killing more than 42,000 people per year. There’s a sense of urgency to the push, as lawmakers continue to hear story after story of people in their communities dying from overdoses. The crisis is showing no signs of abating..." Congress passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) in 2016, but lawmakers and advocates broadly agree that it’s only one part of the solution." • Grant Smith, interim director for the Drug Policy Alliance’s office of national affairs says : “CARA in a lot of ways provided a starting point for a lot of the work that needs to be done. Legislation needs to focus on expanding access to evidence-based treatment, as well as improving tactics to reduce the harm of opioid usage, such as making an overdose reversal drug accessible to communities and nonmedical settings. That’s what’s going to fundamentally wind down the overdose crisis,” he says, adding, “A border wall or an emphasis on law enforcement is not going to address the situation.” • The House Energy and Commerce Committee will begin its push for new opioid legislation Wednesday, holding a hearing on eight enforcement and patient safety-related bills. It’s the first of three hearings, the other two of which will focus on prevention and insurance coverage. The committee chairman, Greg Walden, says he’s working under an aggressive timetable, in coordination with leadership, to pass opioid legislation out of the House by the Memorial Day weekend. Walden told TheHll : “This is affecting everybody's district, and we want to build on our past efforts, which were significant, but this remains a big problem.” Walden is from Oregon. Meanwile, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) are working on legislation that Whitehouse referred to as “CARA 2.0.” Part of their goal is to help ensure the $6 billion for combating opioids and mental health that lawmakers included in a spending deal this month goes to the right places. At an event hosted by TheHill on Valentine's Day, Whitehouse said he and Portman are working to “make sure that the $6 billion...gets dedicated and appropriated in ways that are consistent with the direction that the Congress displayed in CARA, and so we’re trying to meld the commitment and the CARA principles together. We’re trying to sort it out fairly quickly.” The House legislation will create new policies, some of which are likely to need a slice of the newly approved funds. Walden told TheHill : “As we begin to look at some of the initiatives, we'll probably target and authorize spending some of that money on some of these initiatives.” • Advocates have been working behind the scenes for months to put together research and policy ideas, according to TheHill : "The Addiction Policy Forum has been coordinating the effort with a working group of 200 organizations. They’ve met with committee staff in both chambers as well as leadership on both sides of the aisle. 'Our grass roots is heartened that Congress is looking at this issue, dedicating dollars and starting to prioritize the mark-up of new legislation,' Jessica Nickel, Addiction Policy Forum’s president and CEO, said. 'We hope to work very closely with every member and every committee as we build these bills to make sure that they are informed by families and science.' The 2016 bill originally included some provisions dealing with opioid recovery services that didn’t make the final product. To help with the new legislative effort, 'we've provided some ideas and some feedback particularly from the recovery community,' Nickel said. 'CARA had many pieces within the recovery pillar that ended up on the cutting room floor that we need to prioritize to be included in any work that the CARA champions do to build and improve on CARA.' ” • Patty McCarthy Metcalf, executive director of Faces and Voices of Recovery, another advocacy group, told TheHill about several specific provisions -- such as a national youth recovery initiative specifically authorizing grants aimed at helping young people in recovery. Metcalf said : “We’re tired of getting scrapped and being the last to be recognized as a valuable part of the system.” Metcalf hopes some of the $6 billion is funneled toward recovery-related efforts. • Advocates stressed the need to bolster the treatment system for people with an opioid addiction. Andrew Kessler, founder of Slingshot Solutions, a consulting firm specializing in behavioral health policy, said : “We are still lacking infrastructure. We’re lacking in treatment spots, we’re lacking in number of facilities. We’re lacking in number of [treatment] professionals.” • What does CARA do? It authorized grants to help states fight the opioid epidemic, and a biomedical innovation bill approved several months later appropriated $1 billion over two years for states to fight the crisis. Regina LaBelle, who served as chief of staff for the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the Obama administration, said lawmakers and the Trump administration need to focus on what steps the states are taking to combat the epidemic : “I think what’s really needed is making certain that states have strategies in place, that they are making sure that monies are being spent in local communities, making sure that cities and local governments are getting the money that they need.” • • • HHS WEIGHS IN. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is supporting medication-assisted treatment (MAT) as a crucial component of stemming the opioid crisis plaguing the nation. In his first extensive remarks on the opioid epidemic, set to be delivered Saturday, Azar will announce two measures aimed at increasing this form of treatment. Azar will tell the National Governors" Association that : “Medication-assisted treatment works. The evidence on this is voluminous and ever growing.” • Addiction experts have long touted medication-assisted treatment -- which aims to couple medicine with therapy -- as a gold standard of treatment for an opioid addiction. Azar’s remarks Saturday will point to the challenge in obtaining this form of treatment. He said that about one-third of speciality substance abuse treatment programs offer MAT. Failing to do so, says Azar, is : “like trying to treat an infection without antibiotics. Under this administration, we want to raise that one-third number -- in fact, it will be nigh impossible to turn the tide on this epidemic without doing so.” Secretary Azar says that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will release two new draft guidances "soon." Last November, the FDA approved Buprenorphine, one medication-assisted treatment administered by a monthly injection, making it easier to adhere to the medication. The FDA will draft guidance to clarify what kind of evidence manufacturers that are trying to develop new forms of the medication need in order obtain approval for monthly injectable forms of buprenorphine. The FDA will also draft guidance aimed at “encouraging more flexible and creative designs of MAT studies.” Researchers will be tasked with developing new ways to evaluate the effects of MAT formulations. • The opioid epidemic has ravaged areas across the country, and has shown no sign of stopping. Deaths from opioid overdoses increased nearly 28% from 2015 to 2016, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In late October, President Trump declared the epidemic a public health emergency. Months later, however, some advocates have expressed frustration that it didn’t produce much action. In mid-January, the administration extended the emergency declaration another 90 days. Advocates had also been pushing for more funding, saying a robust infusion of federal dollars is needed to curb the crisis. A budget deal passed earlier this month included $6 billion over two years for the opioid and mental health crises. Trump’s budget proposed $10 billion in funding to address the opioid epidemic for fiscal 2019. Now, Congress will also examine bills aimed at curbing the epidemic, as the House Energy and Commerce Committee will kick off its legislative push on Wednesday. • • • WHAT IS THE SOLUTION? Does a solution require multiple federal legislation, six new bills, billions of dollars spent for advocacy group pet topics, or federal surveillance of state efforts to deal with the opioid epidemic in each state?? • Is there one word in the report from TheHill conference or any of the advocacy groups or Congress about what causes the opioid epidemic??? NO. The epidemic has been caused by doctors prescribing these potent painkillers to the degree that patients get 'hooked' on them. Then drug dealers step in and supply the addicts. That analysis does not need multiple congressional bills or reams of advocacy advice. Halting the opioid epidemic requires, FIRST, outlawing the manufacture and availability by prescription of ANY opioid. Second, Congress needs to fund a greatly increased US southern border security effort to seal the border sufficiently to prevent new sources of illegal opioids from entering the country. THIRD, those already addicted to opioids need to be treated -- at state and local levels -- using FDA drugs for MAT, and whatever else is realistically working. If that requires federal funding, it should be made available without onerous reporting or other strings attached that only serve to make the federal government seem more important than it really is in this fight. • This is just one more time when federal bureaucrats and lobbying groups are doing more harm than good. President Trump needs to tell Congress to get the job done. Unless there are drug pushers hiding out as members of Congress, there should be no disagreement on Capitol Hill about dealing swiftly and efficiently with the opioid epidemic. • • • OPIOIDS ARE A LOT LIKE GUNS FOR DEMOCRATS. Everybody is talking but pointing in different directions. In the case of guns, common sense solutions suggested by Republicans who represent the position of the majority of Americans are being stonewalled by Democrats, who are frozen into inaction because they represent two very different constituencies. Democrat leaders want to support the idea that Congress should take action on gun control, but face warnings from some Democrats that doing too much could, as TheHill reported on Tuesday, "drive away voters in the swing districts they’ll need to retake the Speaker’s gavel" in the November mid-term elections. • A number of rank-and-file lawmakers view this month’s shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school as a potential tipping point in the years-long congressional stalemate over new gun restrictions, and they are calling for extensive reforms, including a ban on military-style weapons (whatever that means). Representative Ted Deutch, a Democrat who represents Parkland, said, in a hugely illogical comparison : “Americans don’t own tanks or missiles, so why should our streets be flooded with weapons of war made for the sole purpose of killing people?” House minority leader Nancy Pelosi is a co-sponsor of the military-style weapons ban. TheHill calls this "a clear sign that House leaders don’t intend to shy away from an aggressive approach to the issue -- a rare move for the minority leader prone to avoiding official endorsements of specific bills." • BUT, other Democrats warn that embracing aggressive new gun restrictions carries risks, particularly in conservative-leaning districts where gun rights are sacred. An unnamed former aide to a Democrat leader told TheHill : “It’s one of those fundamental issues that riles up American politics -- it’s up there with abortion and immigration -- and they need to be very careful. If a Democratic candidate, or the party as a whole, overextends on this issue, then it becomes incredibly easy for the Republicans to play that up in a lot of districts. It’s easier to demagogue on this than to do something about it, and you risk overreaching as a party if you try to make it a one-size-fits-all [issue].” An addition, gun-control ProgDems say that Pelosi's pre-Parkland calls for quick action on three more modest proposals -- creating a special committee to examine gun violence, expanding background checks before almost all gun sales and empowering federal researchers to study gun violence as a public health issue (research that’s currently banned) -- would be attacked by the National Rifle Association anyway, so congressional Democrats should, according to another unnamed Democrat aide, downplay the dangers of an assertive push for expansive reforms like the assault weapons ban. • Centrist Democrats don't agree. Even their more modest centrist approaches have drawn attacks from gun rights supporters, endangering their Democratic sponsors. Representative Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) told TheHill he came under criticism for sponsoring a bill -- backed by Republicans and the NRA -- that bolstered the existing background check system : “That was a very narrow, tailored solution. Even there they were saying we were trying to take guns away." • Other Democrats -- Representatives Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.) and Don Beyer (D-Va.) -- are pushing a bill allowing law enforcement and family members to petition judges for restraining orders targeting gun owners showing signs of violence or instability. Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) are going to introduce legislation reinstating an Obama-era regulation, eliminated by Republicans last year, that prohibited gun sales to those individuals deemed so unstable that they can’t manage their own finances. Represnetative Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) is talking about legislation to spike taxes on guns and ammunition. Still other Democrats want to raise the gun-buying age from 18 to 21, a proposal Trump and other Republicans have flirted with but that is opposed by the NRA and many Americans. • Yet, says TheHill : "the Democrats’ campaign arm is shying away from the notion that the party will adopt any national message on gun reform, citing regional and cultural differences across the country. And a second leadership aide suggested Democrats won’t go too far with their proposals, since major reforms are unlikely under a GOP-controlled Congress." • The aide added : “If we’re in the majority, of course the legislation changes." That would be a major change from earlier periods of Democrat control of Congress when they did nothing to advance their supposed opposition to guns. Democrats’ history with gun reform does not show any tendancy to enact laws such as they are now proposing. Under President Clinton, they enacted a 10-year ban on assault weapons, but it was widely viewed as a factor helping to secure George W. Bush’s White House victory six years later. Aside from 2007 legislation designed to encourage more background check reporting -- a measure adopted in the wake of the shooting massacre at Virginia Tech the same year -- they abandoned the issue. Indeed, says TheHill : "when Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee requested background check hearings in 2010, when they controlled the gavel, they were refused. Pelosi defended that decision this month, saying it was a practical one : The votes to pass the legislation, she argued, simply weren’t there in the Senate at the time." • • • DEAR READERS, Everytown for Gun Safety President John Feinblatt suggested Monday he's not holding his breath for Congress to take action this year. He’s more focused on this fall’s elections, particularly at the state level. Feinblatt added : “There’s a lot of talk, but it’s herding cats in Congress....When I think about where we’re putting most of our muscle today, it’s to throw them out. It will be the states that actually show Washington, DC, where the public stands.” • And, that is one more reason why the November mid-term elections are critical. Saving the Second Amendment from ProgDem cherry-picking bit-by-bit destruction is the most important single issue for conservative voters this Fall. • The mainstream media propagandist arm of the ProgDems is helping with what seem to be deliberate lies about GOP members of Congress. The Washington Free Beacon reported on Tuesday that : "A number of media figures and gun control groups have grossly misstated the amount of money the National Rifle Association (NRA) has donated to Republican candidates in their coverage following the deadly shooting at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The NRA's political action committee, like all federal PACs, is limited in how much it can give to candidates every election cycle. A federal PAC is allowed to contribute a maximum of $10,000 per candidate, per election cycle ($5,000 for a primary, and $5,000 for a general election). Despite these limits, many have been using terminology that attributes inaccurate political donations to Republican politicians by what appears to be combining actual donations to candidates with the NRA's independent expenditures, which are not "contributions," "funding," or associated with any candidates or campaigns in any way." • The Free Beacon reported that MSNBC's Joy Reid, for example, tweeted out a picture of Senator Marco Rubio on February 24 that read, "Donations from the NRA to Sen. Marco Rubio -- $3,303,355." The photo was retweeted nearly 4,700 times and liked more than 5,700 times. On Saturday morning, Reid talked about that figure on her MSNBC segment : "So now, Marco Rubio is essentially not taking a single step away from the NRA. In fact, let's look at his history. Over the course of his career, his donations from the NRA total -- top -- $3.3 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics." FACT : The NRA's PAC has donated only $9,900 directly to Rubio's campaign, all of which came during the 2016 cycle. The NRA did spend $2.3 million on independent expenditures in Florida during Rubio's 2016 race targeting former Democratic representative Patrick Murphy and $1 million in favor of Rubio. However, independent expenditures, such as money put into advertisements, are not "donations" and cannot be coordinated with a candidate's campaign. Reid's producer did not return a Free Beacon request for comment on Reid associating them with donations directly to Rubio. • And, TIME published an article following the tragedy titled, "Here's How Much the NRA has Given to Florida Lawmakers." The piece included a viral tweet from Bess Kalb, a writer for the Jimmy Kimmel Live television show, that read, "In the 2015-2016 election cycle, GOP candidates took $17,385,437 from the NRA." The TIME article transitioned from the tweet to Florida federal candidates, writing that they were given $834,165 in donations from the NRA PAC throughout the 2016 elections. FACT : The 19 federal politicians from Florida received a total of $42,600 during the 2016 election cycle. The $834,165 figure stated by the publication is the total combined amount that the NRA PAC gave to all federal politicians across the United States during the 2016 cycle. TIME corrected and updated their article after being told of the actual amounts that the lawmakers were given. • Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control group funded by liberal billionaire Michael Bloomberg, and Moms Demand Safety, another gun control group, ran a two-page, $230,000 advertisement in the New York Times with a list of every Republican politician that has "received NRA donations," TheHill reported. The list included 100 names of politicians, their phone numbers, and what they have received from the NRA. The NYT ad reads : "These members of Congress take NRA money, but refuse to take action to pass gun safety legislation." The second page of the ad features a photo of children leaving Majory Stoneman following the shooting and a cut line that says, "We're children. You guys are adults...get something done." FACT : Many of the figures associated with the politicians who "take NRA money" are also misleading, as they appear to combine totals for the donations directly to candidates with the independent money that was spent during their respective races that is separate from the campaigns. Everytown did not return a Free Beacon request for comment by press time on why they labeled their figures as "funding" to the candidates. • Another FACT : The NRA's PAC has averaged around $1.3 million in total direct contributions to all federal candidates per election cycle since 1990, according to data used from the Center for Responsive Politics. • Compare this to the lobbying expenditures of Everytown for Gun Safety and its affiliates : $1,350,000 (2016). In 2015 lobbying expenditures were $1,450,000. And, 19 out of 27 Everytown for Gun Safety lobbyists in 2015-2016 have previously held government jobs. The bill most frequently lobbied on by Everytown for Gun Safety was H.R.1217 (Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act of 2015) that aimed to ensure that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System AND to expand the background check system to encompass the commercial sale of all firearms, including those sold at gun shows, through the Internet and in classified ads. The bill did not get to a floor vote. • Opioids. Guns. ProgDems cannot defeat Republican positions as the majority in Congress who represent the majority of Americans. But, ProgDems can keep anything from happening, while blaming Republicans for the confusion in their own Democrat Party. Remember that in November.