Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn Holds Up Government Funding Resolution Over Reported Crack Pipe Distribution

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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Republican Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn is placing a hold on a continuing resolution to fund the federal government over reports that a program will distribute free crack pipes and other drug paraphernalia.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) program, modeled after one instituted in San Francisco, will reportedly offer $30 million to local governments and non-profits as part of an effort to make drug use safer. The Washington Free Beacon first reported, citing one anonymous source, that the drug paraphernalia kits are expected to include pipes and heroin needles, which the Biden administration has disputed.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki denied the Free Beacon report during her Wednesday press conference, even though the HHS program description mentions “safe smoking kits,” and an HHS spokesperson reportedly confirmed the contents of the kits.

“They were never part of the kit. It was inaccurate reporting,” Psaki said. “Safe smoking kits may contain alcohol swabs, lip balm, other materials to promote hygiene and reduce the transmission of diseases like HIV and hepatitis.”

Despite Psaki’s assertion, a large number of programs offering “safe smoking kits” do include crack pipes, most notably in Seattle, San Francisco, and New York.

Critics contend that such programs encourage and subsidize drug use, particularly in public places. (RELATED: ‘Gang Bang Drug Dealer’: Senator Kennedy Blasts Crack Pipe Funding, Says Closed Border Will Help Drug Problem)

“It would be absolutely absurd to send government-funded drug paraphernalia to underserved communities. U.S. taxpayer dollars should not be used to fund vending machines for crack pipes. If this is President Biden’s plan to address drug abuse, our nation is in serious trouble,” Blackburn said in a statement. “Today’s claims by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Secretary Becerra mean nothing given that the HHS-approved FY 2022 Harm Reduction Program Grant specifically allows for government-funded smoking kits. We will not allow this administration to continue lying to the American people.”

The House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution Tuesday to fund the federal government through March 11 in a 272-162 vote. Unless the Senate passes the bill, the federal government will shut down on Feb. 18.

Blackburn’s hold will force Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to hold a cloture vote if Congress does not eliminate the drug paraphernalia program funding. In December, 19 Republicans voted with Democrats to fund the government and avert a shutdown.