Erik Paulsen regularly issues a video Correspondence Corner in which he responds to constituent questions.
It is a great ploy — Congressman Paulsen determines what question is to be answered … thus, providing him an opportunity to portray himself as effectively responding to issues that he wishes to address as if they are the most critical issues that voters want addressed.
The MN Political Roundtable will be evaluating Congressman Paulsen’s responses and encouraging readers to offer their own assessments.
Tomorrow’s topic: H.R.2142 — INTERDICT Act
Congressman Erik Paulsen responds to a telephone call he received from Richard of Edina inquiring what Congress was doing about the opioid epidemic.
Congressman Paulsen response leads to a few common questions:
1. Are his facts correct
2. Is there more that needs to be done
3. What doesn’t he say
4. Would anyone else representing Minnesota’s Third District vote differently.
A little background
The International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology (INTERDICT) Act [H.R. 2142] was approved by a bipartisan 412-3 vote and will now move to the Senate (where Senator Klobuchar has sponsored S 708 as the companion bill.)
The legislation will provide U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) with technology to screen and detect fentanyl and other deadly synthetic opioids as they come across point of entry. Based on guidance from CBP, the bill would appropriate $9 million for adding new screening devices, laboratory equipment, facilities and personnel for support during all operational hours.
Fentanyl was first introduced more than 50 years ago and was approved for treating severe pain in the early 1990s, typically for advanced cancer patients. It’s since become a more commonly prescribed painkiller. U.S. doctors wrote 6.65 million fentanyl prescriptions in 2014.
Between 2014 and 2015, the number of synthetic opioid overdoses rose 72 percent, amounting to 9,500 deaths.
According to CDC the number of all drug overdose deaths rose to 65,094 (March 2017) from 54,786 (March 2016) with Minnesota recording 663 in 2017 versus 626 in 2016.
Congressman Paulsen cites somewhat different number … most likely from a NY Times estimate of 20,100 of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues related deaths out of the total of 64,000 overdoses … but the point is correct … that is an alarming number of deaths.
Thus, Richard’s question … what is Congress doing about it ?
H.R.2142, the INTERDICT Act, was introduced on April 25, 2017 and it took six months for the Republican-controlled House to schedule a vote. No hearings were held on the bill but it did garner 19 sponsors (which did not include Congressman Paulsen.)
The vote was not close … so why wasn’t this done earlier ?
It was only $9 million dollars … ya gotta wonder if anyone voted no because the bill was underfunded as opposed to being philosophically opposed to it. Maybe they would have supported Senator Klobuchar’s version which appropriates $15 million?
Funny thing is that the House just passed its newest budget resolution stating
Policy on Opioid Abuse.–It is the policy of this concurrent
(1) combating opioid abuse using available budgetary
resources remains a high priority;
so $9 million is pretty small when compared to the 2018 budget resolution funding $2.6 Billion for border security, including a physical wall along the southern border.
Although HR 2142 has a price tag of $9 million that could change once the final appropriations bills are enacted (remember #WashingtonMustDoMoreWithLess mantra).
Further, there is no new money for this … just an instruction to use “available budgetary resources”
Hmmmm … build a wall or address fentanyl ?
OK … so you think “build the wall” will keep fentanyl out … after all, Congressman Paulsen mentions Mexico (and China) in his response. What Congressman Paulsen did not say is what other government officials have acknowledged — it is that China is the primary source of fentanyl in the United States.
So, this will buy some detection equipment … but is that enough ?
$9 million ?
Consider that the Dayton administration proposed a $42 million investment to address Minnesota’s opioid addiction prevention and treatment needs. Lt. Governor Tina Smith lamented that request was not granted, “Unfortunately, the Legislature declined to take action. I urge the Legislature to reconsider and pass a comprehensive package for addressing the opioid crisis. Our families can’t afford to wait any longer for help.”
Congressman Paulsen would rather focus on the successful passage of the INTERDICT Act rather than H.R.1057 –“Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention Act of 2017”– STOP Act of 2017 which has been languishing in his Ways and Means Committee since February 14 (the origin of this bill goes back to last year, H.R.6045 offered on September 15, 2016).
In summary, does Congressman Paulsen deserve an attaboy for getting the INTERDICT Act approved?
OR, is this just another example of #MeTooPaulsen … self-promoting an issue that everyone agrees must be addressed … implying that something “big” is being done, yet it just another example of a dysfunctional Congress that is too focused on tax cuts for the wealthy than addressing our real needs and a president who is focused on spending taxpayer money on a “big, beautiful” border wall.
Yep, wrong priorities for Minnesota.