Rep. Mike Coffman Snared By Opiate-Gate

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

A CNN story caught our attention regarding trouble for GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, now a candidate for the U.S. Senate–but facing fierce headwinds due to her co-sponsorship of legislation now widely blamed for worsening the crisis of opioid pain killer addiction in the United States. This is the same legislation that led to the recent withdrawal of Rep. Tom Marino from consideration for the post of drug policy czar in Donald Trump’s White House:

Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s support for a drug law that she acknowledged might have caused “unintended consequences” is marring her entry into Tennessee’s Senate race — with her Democratic opponent saying she should drop out and potentially stronger foes in both parties now more seriously considering entering the contest.

Blackburn, who last week launched her bid for the retiring Sen. Bob Corker’s seat, co-sponsored the measure that was the subject of Sunday’s blockbuster investigation by “60 Minutes” and The Washington Post. The Blackburn-backed law, whistleblowers said, made it easier for drug companies to distribute opioids across American communities and thwart the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Already, the lead sponsor of that bill, Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Tom Marino, who took nearly $100,000 in campaign contributions from pharmaceutical interests, has withdrawn as President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the nation’s drug czar. Marino and Blackburn asked a government watchdog to investigate a DEA official who warned them in 2014 that their bill would aid criminals, accusing the official of intimidation.

Te perverse effect of this legislation, which was sold on the premise of “effective drug enforcement” while “ensuring patient access” to opioid pain medication, was to greatly increase the supply of powerful and addictive drugs. These drugs were both abused legally by patients who received unethically large prescriptions from doctors at walk-in “pain management” clinics, and also sold on the black market for many times their legal purchase price–both of which greatly worsened the crisis the legislation was passed to address. Newly-addicted patients who find their source of legal opioids cut off frequently turn to heroin as an alternative, with all the attendant social evils of the illicit drug trade.

Needless to say, nominating the lead sponsor of this legislation to be the White House’s drug policy czar invites fundamental questions about the Trump administration’s own ethics–not the first such questions, of course, given Trump’s Cabinet comprised of almost perfectly destructive misfits for the departments they were nominated to lead. But serious questions nonetheless.

And as CNN’s Eric Bradner continues, the and Reps. Marino and Blackburn aren’t the only ones in the hot seat:

The damage could extend beyond Marino’s nomination and Blackburn’s Senate race.

Three other Republicans who are along Democrats’ top targets in the 2018 midterms — Reps. Mike Coffman of Colorado, [Pols emphasis] Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania and George Holding of North Carolina — were all at times co-sponsors of Marino’s bill.

And with that, Tom Marino’s problem is now Rep. Mike Coffman’s problem. Yes, the bill was signed into law by President Barack Obama, but Obama’s not in office anymore. Today, the sponsors of this legislation who still have something to lose are facing the consequences of its perverse effects. For Rep. Tom Marino, those consequences just put a hard ceiling on his political career. For Rep. Blackburn, seeking to represent a state that has been ravaged by opioid addiction and preventable deaths, the same may be true.

Why exactly did Mike Coffman sign on as a sponsor of this bill? Who from the pharmaceutical industry lobbied him to do it? Was there a price? What does Mike Coffman say today about legislation he sponsored that has now been shown to have done widespread harm instead of good? A whole slew of pointed questions now need to be answered–and whatever those answers may be, the line of attack in next year’s elections against Coffman from his sponsorship of this bill is obvious.

And potentially, quite devastating.


11 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. unnamed says:

    Time will tell how devastating it is

  2. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    Mike Coffman and then-Rep Cory Gardner, who also co-sponsored HR4709, the "Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2014", were some of the bill's cosponsors who were lobbied by the pharmaceutical industries, which spent $102 million convincing Congress to ignore common sense to make it easier to overprescribe and to ship opioids to drug dealers.

    HR4709 drastically limited the DEA's authority to freeze or even investigate large, suspicious shipments of opioid pills. It was vigorously lobbied for by Big Pharma. Obama signed it into law without the OMB even knowing about this policy change, according to the Washington Post.

    Coffman and Gardner also initially opposed amendment 64, which allows recreational use of cannabis in Colorado. Colorado's opioid overdose deaths are still a tragic problem, more frequent than auto accidents for young males.  Yet, Colorado is also the only state in the country in which opioid deaths are trending downward, possibly due to the legalization of medical and recreational cannabis.

    • ModeratusModeratus says:

      If he had gone the other way you'd be complaining that he left people to suffer. There's no pleasing Democrats.

      • unnamed says:

        But if people suffered, you would be in hog heaven.

      • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

        When people die from opioid overdoses, that is tragic. Doesn't matter about party affiliation. The bill that Coffman and Gardner co-sponsored was to allow drug companies to ship large amounts of opioids to unknown dealers.. 

        The DEA once had authority to stop these suspicious shipments. Coffman and Gardner et al voted to take that authority away under the guise of getting rid of " unnecessary regulations".  Big Pharma paid $102 million to get those votes, mainly from GOP reps. 

        Coffman and Gardner have also voted to defund community health programs the ACA funded. Programs to pay for the EMT to be there to give the poor comatose addict lifesaving dose of Nalaxone.

        Addiction and mental health treatment program funds were gutted by Republicans prattling about "wasteful spending" while they wasted people's lives. 

        So don't talk to me about "Democrats won't be satisfied."

        • FrankUnderwood says:

          If given sufficient campaign donations, would they also take steps to make life easier for crack or meth dealers…….

          Perhaps Walter White can host a fundraiser for the NRSC.

  3. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    I think we should hang this around Gardner's neck, as well. Especially since he's bragging in his fake telly-townhalls about all he's doing to promote better health care (by taking it away or making it cost more

    He's also grandstanding on the opioid addiction issue, while at the same time he crusaded for Medicaid cuts that would have  cut programs in community  health centers that treat addiction, and funds for emergency providers to have Naloxone doses that save lives of people in OD crisis.

    • Conserv. Head Banger says:

      What's missing in all the discussion about the epidemic is the matter of personal responsibility and personal decision making. No one forces people to take these opioids. Yes, life can be tough out there. But I saw many people, during my career in social services, who just said no, and often said it very loudly.

      As for the bill that prevents the DEA from engaging, don’t forget that President Obama signed it. It’s only now that the effects are seen. Someone on the Republican side needs to draft a repeal bill and take on big pharma. Maybe Moderatus can persuade Coffman to go that route.

      • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

        I agree that there is a personal responsibility component in this. It is also true that painkillers, especially opiates like Oxycodone and derivatives, are over-prescribed, and incredibly addictive.

        When natural treatment alternatives (herbs, exercise, massage, cannabis derivatives, yoga, etc) or non-addictive pain medications are not even mentioned by prescribing doctors, that is a problem.

        I took Oxy for the bare minimum of time necessary to deal with broken elbows, and quickly transitioned to non-drug treatments. Not everyone has the same information and access to effective alternatives for severe pain.

        Plus there are language barriers. At the local meat packing plants, 1/3 to 1/2 of the workforce at any one time has only the most basic command of English. When injured, they take the pills that the company -approved doc says they should take.

        And there is of course, a criminal element, waiting to scoop up those unused pills and sell them off. I heard that my unused Oxy pills go for $200 each, and people actually grind them up and smoke them. Ewww.

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