COMPREHENSIVE ADDICTION AND RECOVERY ACT OF 2015; Congressional Record Vol. 162, No. 37
(Senate - March 08, 2016)

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[Pages S1328-S1332]
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            COMPREHENSIVE ADDICTION AND RECOVERY ACT OF 2015

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the Senate will 
resume consideration of S. 524, which the clerk will report.
  The legislative clerk read as follows:

       A bill (S. 524) to authorize the Attorney General to award 
     grants to address the national epidemics of prescription 
     opioid abuse and heroin use.

  Pending:

       Grassley amendment No. 3378, in the nature of a substitute.
       Grassley (for Donnelly/Capito) modified amendment No. 3374 
     (to amendment No. 3378), to provide follow-up services to 
     individuals who have received opioid overdose reversal drugs.

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Republican whip.


                   Filling the Supreme Court Vacancy

  Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, as the entire country knows, it was about 
1 month ago that we lost Justice Antonin Scalia. Our country is still 
dealing with the loss of this man, whose contribution to our highest 
Court and the health of our Constitution cannot be overstated.
  Justice Scalia understood the actual words in the Constitution were 
important. He famously said that if the American people realized what 
the Supreme Court did on occasion, which was to substitute their value 
judgments instead of interpreting the Constitution and laws--rather to 
substitute their value judgments for those of the people and their 
elected representatives--they might well feel their values were 
superior and preferable to those of an unelected life-tenured member of 
the United States Supreme Court. That is an important reminder.
  Justice Scalia was known for expressing himself very colorfully and 
clearly, and he clearly was no fan of making it up as you go along, 
which, unfortunately, can happen when the Supreme Court chooses to 
substitute their values for those of the American people rather than 
interpret the law and the Constitution.
  Justice Scalia was also a key figure when it came to making sure the 
Court policed the check of Executive power on legislative power. In 
other words, he believed in the separation of powers and checks and 
balances. I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that Justice 
Scalia helped resuscitate our constitutional principles and inspired 
the next generation of lawyers and legal scholars and judges to care 
deeply about our Constitution as originally written. Because of Justice 
Scalia, our Republic is stronger.
  Mr. President, I have listened to and read about comments made by our 
friends across the aisle who are questioning our intention to allow the 
American people to help choose who the next Justice on the Supreme 
Court is going to be by selecting the next President who will make that 
appointment. It is abundantly clear that the Constitution gives the 
President the authority to make a nomination, but it is just as clear 
that the Constitution gives the U.S. Senate the authority to determine 
how or whether to move forward with any nominee proposed by President 
Obama. There is ample precedent to support the decision made by Senate 
Republicans to withhold consent on the President's nominee and to allow 
the American people's voices to be heard.
  That is not to say it will not be a Democratic President making that 
appointment or it could be a Republican President. We don't know at 
this early stage in the Presidential election. But we do know it would 
be improper to allow a lameduck President to forever change the balance 
on the Supreme Court for perhaps the next 30 years as he is heading out 
the door.
  There is a lot of precedent for what we have decided to do. Not since 
1932 has the Senate, in a Presidential election year, confirmed a 
Supreme Court nominee to a vacancy arising in that same year--1932. One 
would have to go back even further--to 1888--to find an election-year 
nominee who was nominated and confirmed under a divided government, as 
we have today. So what Senate Democrats are actually insisting on, and 
the President is insisting on, is that we do something we haven't done 
for 130 years.
  Of course, the position being taken by Senate Republicans is not a 
new idea either. As a matter of fact, the Democratic leader in 2005 
said this--of course, this was when President George W. Bush was 
President. Senator Reid said:

       The duties of the Senate are set forth in the U.S. 
     Constitution. Nowhere in that document does it say the Senate 
     has a duty to give presidential appointees a vote.

  Senator Reid was entirely correct. That is what the Constitution 
says. As I mentioned earlier, the President can nominate anybody he 
wants, but the Constitution does not say the Senate is obligated to 
give a vote to that nominee.
  I would note that I read some of the remarks of the Democratic leader 
this morning, and I just want to say he was apparently critical of a 
story written that included my name and the word ``pinata'' included in 
the story, suggesting this was somehow a threat.
  I would be surprised if any person who actually aspired to be on the 
U.S. Supreme Court--a current judge or a legal scholar or lawyer--would 
allow themselves to be used by this administration in making a 
nomination to the Supreme Court for a seat that will not be filled 
during the remainder of President Obama's term, knowing they will not 
be confirmed. And even if a member of the same political party as the 
President is elected President next year, there is no guarantee that 
same person will be renominated. So I likened the nomination process 
and confirmation process to a pinata, which is only to say the 
confirmation process around here has gotten pretty tough.
  But I am not going to be preached to by the Democratic leader, by the 
Democrats who have been responsible for filibustering judges, creating 
a new verb in the English language--``Borked''--when they blocked 
Robert Bork's appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, when the 
Democratic leader invokes the nuclear option, breaking the Senate rules 
for the sole purpose of packing the DC Circuit Court of Appeals with 
like-minded judges so that the President wouldn't have to worry about 
judges who might question overreaching his authority under the 
Constitution by issuing Executive orders or otherwise circumventing the 
role of Congress. This is a playbook that has been written by the 
Democratic leader and our colleagues across the aisle. Do they expect 
us to operate under a different set of rules than they themselves 
advocated for?
  Here is what Senator Reid's successor in the Democratic caucus said 
in 2007. This was 18 months before President George W. Bush left 
office. Senator Schumer, the Senator for New York, said: ``For the rest 
of this President's term [18 months] we should reverse the presumption 
of confirmation.''
  I don't really know what he is talking about. There never was a 
presumption of confirmation. But I guess he is assuming the deference 
some people show when a President does nominate a Supreme Court 
Justice. We haven't seen much of that deference lately, I might add. 
But this is what Senator Schumer goes on to say: I will ``recommend to 
my colleagues that we should not confirm a Supreme Court nominee except 
in extraordinary circumstances.''
  Essentially, what Senator Schumer was saying is that 18 months before 
President George W. Bush left office, if there were a vacancy created, 
they would presume not to confirm that nominee.
  Of course, we know that back in 1992 when he was chairman of the 
Senate Judiciary Committee, Vice President Biden said: ``The Senate 
Judiciary Committee should seriously consider not scheduling 
confirmation hearings on the nomination until after the political 
campaign season is over.'' That is what Vice President Joe Biden said 
in 1992.
  I see the distinguished chairman of the Judiciary Committee here on 
the

[[Page S1329]]

floor, and I want to tell him how much I appreciate his steadfastness 
in supporting the decision we have made collectively to allow the 
voters in November, who choose the next President, a voice in who is 
actually nominated to fill this important vacancy.
  I wasn't in the room when Chairman Grassley and Majority Leader 
McConnell were there with the Vice President and the President; Senator 
Leahy, the ranking member; and Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, but I 
have heard that the question came up: How can you do this? How can you 
not allow President Obama to fill this vacancy?
  I heard that it was pointed out to the President, to the Vice 
President, to the ranking member, and to the Democratic leader that 
they were the ones who filibustered judicial nominees by a Republican 
President. They are the ones who created this environment in which what 
used to be fairly routine confirmation hearings have become so 
polarized.
  Again, I believe it would be foolish of us to say, ``Well, these are 
the policies the Democrats, when they are in the majority, will employ 
when there is a Republican President'' but somehow to act aghast or 
surprised when we say, ``Well, if the rules are going to apply to you 
like this, then they ought to apply when Republicans are in the 
majority and we have a Democratic President.''
  At the end of a lameduck Democratic President's time in the White 
House, all three of these individuals--the Vice President; the 
Democratic leader, Senator Reid; the heir apparent to the Democratic 
leadership, Senator Schumer--all three of them are quick to criticize 
Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, insisting that different 
principles ought to apply. But that is hypocritical. It is the height 
of hypocrisy to say: Well, one set of rules applies to us and a 
different set of rules applies to you.
  This is more than just about hypocrisy; this is really about an 
important principle. It is important to allow the voters, in choosing 
the next President of the United States, to make that decision and make 
sure their voice is heard rather than just 100 Members of the Senate. I 
don't know why that should be objectionable.
  So it is pretty clear to me--it is absolutely clear to me that Senate 
Republicans stand firmly behind the idea that the people should have a 
say in this critical issue when they vote in November because there is 
a lot at stake here--a lot. Depending on who ultimately fills this 
vacancy next year, the next Supreme Court Justice could tip the 
ideological direction of the Court for a generation--Justice Scalia 
served for 30 years--and thus fundamentally reshape American society in 
the process.
  Given President Obama's previous Supreme Court nominees, the question 
before the American people is whether they want someone with the same 
or similar ideology to dramatically change the current balance on the 
Supreme Court, because if President Obama were allowed to nominate 
someone who is confirmed in the same mold as those he has already 
nominated and who have been confirmed, it would for a generation change 
the ideological balance of the U.S. Supreme Court.
  You have to wonder whether the real goal--much like it was when the 
nuclear option was invoked and we saw nominees to the District of 
Columbia Court of appeals, which some people call the second most 
important court in the Nation--when there was literally a packing of 
nominees on that court because they wanted to tip the ideological 
balance of the DC Court of Appeals because most of the important legal 
decisions made which ultimately go to the U.S. Supreme Court go through 
that court.
  I have no doubt in my mind that the President and his allies wanted 
somebody who is going to rubberstamp the President's actions. This 
Court with Justice Scalia I think has rebuked the President on numerous 
occasions when he overreached his authority--for example, on recess 
appointments. We have seen an injunction granted by a district court in 
Brownsville, TX, upheld by the Fifth Court of Circuit Appeals, on the 
President's Executive action on immigration. The Court has often--led 
by Justice Scalia--stood strong against attempts by the President to 
grab power for the executive branch away from Congress and, more 
importantly, from the American people.
  So at this critical juncture in our Nation's history, the American 
people should have a voice in deciding who selects the next Justice on 
the Supreme Court. I and my colleagues are absolutely committed to 
making sure they have that voice.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Connecticut.
  Mr. MURPHY. Mr. President, I am on the floor today to speak on the 
same subject, but before I do, I want to very briefly discuss two other 
subjects.


                       Remembering Dylan Hockley

  First, Mr. President, I noticed online today that today would be 
Dylan Hockley's 10th birthday. Dylan Hockley was one of the 20 first 
graders who were gunned down in a flurry of bullets at Sandy Hook 
Elementary School in 2012.
  Dylan's mother Nicole has become a crusader for this body to do 
something, anything in the wake of that tragedy to lessen the 
possibility that it might visit another community.
  Dylan was an amazing little kid, struggling with a fairly severe 
learning disability but loving every day that he went to school under 
the care of a great special education professional who died that day as 
well with Dylan in that classroom.
  Dylan would have been 10 years old today. In the 3 years since his 
death, we have done nothing, absolutely nothing to honor his memory.


              Mental Health Legislation and the TREAT Act

  Second, Mr. President, I want to note that we are moving forward in 
the HELP Committee on a very important markup next week on a mental 
health bill Senator Cassidy and I have been working on for over a year, 
and we hope that will eventually find its way to the floor of the 
Senate and in some measure be a very partial answer but an answer 
nonetheless to this epidemic of gun violence. We hope we will be able 
to have that debate this year.
  I also note that we have a bill in the HELP Committee that I think is 
a very important complement to the discussion we are having now on the 
opioid crisis all across the country. As my colleagues know, there is a 
limit on the number of patients to whom providers can prescribe 
Buprenorphine, which is really the most effective, least addictive of 
the heroin substitutes. As a physician, you can only prescribe this 
drug to 100 clients. If you are a physician assistant or a nurse 
practitioner, you are not allowed to prescribe. In Connecticut, that is 
the biggest obstacle we have--we don't have enough physicians who can 
prescribe this very effective drug.
  The TREAT Act, which is a bipartisan bill, removes that cap for 
physicians and allows nurses with higher levels of training and PAs to 
prescribe that drug as well. I hope the HELP Committee will take up 
this bill as part of our markup next week. If it were up to me, we 
would include it as part of our mental health initiative and move it to 
the floor en bloc. The CARA bill is very important this week, but let's 
be honest: There is no money in it, so there are a bunch of new 
programs but no new resources for us in Connecticut to try to take on 
this fight.
  If we were to pass the TREAT Act next week in the HELP Committee and 
move it to the floor, that would be real, tangible relief for 
communities in Connecticut. It would mean that more addicts coming out 
of detox would have access to true elements of recovery--in particular, 
this very effective drug.
  I am hopeful that the HELP Committee will move on this bill next week 
and that we can bring it to the floor perhaps as part of this broader 
mental health package. In one fell swoop, we could have a partial 
answer to the epidemic of gun violence that plagues this country and a 
passage of the TREAT Act or a version of it that by itself might 
actually be more substantive than anything in the piece of legislation 
that is before us today.


                   Filling the Supreme Court Vacancy

  Mr. President, I do want to spend a few moments talking about this 
crisis that is gripping the U.S. Senate with respect to a vacancy that 
looks to remain for the next year on the Supreme Court.
  I have only been in the Senate for 3 years. This is my first term. I 
can't

[[Page S1330]]

claim to hold any special status as a guardian of this institution, 
which has stood the test of time for over 200 years, but I am a student 
of history, and I did choose to run to be a Member of this body because 
of the enormous respect I have for it and its unique role in the unique 
system of U.S. Federal governance. That is why I do believe we are at a 
moment of crisis right now in which the Republican majority is blocking 
President Obama's constitutional responsibility to name a Supreme Court 
nominee, a ninth Justice.
  I think this is a watershed moment for the U.S. Senate. I say that 
with a connection to a State that has had a particularly important role 
in the creation of this body. Right outside this Chamber, there is a 
relatively new painting above the door leading into the Reception Room 
of Oliver Ellsworth and Roger Sherman, who were delegates to the 
Constitutional Convention. They were the authors of what is referred to 
today as the Connecticut Compromise. Roger Sherman was the primary 
author of it; it is sometimes called Sherman's Compromise. This was the 
compromise that established the U.S. Senate, established the premise 
that this body would be made up of two Members from each State and that 
because of its 6-year term would be much more immune to the political 
tempest of the moment that often grips the Chamber down the road, that 
we would have a unique ability to rise above the partisan fray and make 
decisions that are in the best long-term interests of this country.
  Frankly, those have been the best traditions of this body going back 
to the fifties and sixties when this Senate led the fight to expand 
civil rights laws or just 2 years ago when we were able to come 
together and pass an immigration reform bill, with the Presiding 
Officer's leadership, that I think will set the platform for resolving 
that issue in a commonsense way down the road. But the crisis that is 
gripping this place today, I fear, has no end because of the new rule 
that is being established. I just heard Senator Cornyn talk about the 
illegitimacy of a lameduck President making a nomination to the Supreme 
Court. Once something like that is established, it will be difficult to 
unravel.

  If you accept that argument, then this Senate will never again act on 
the nomination of a President in his second term. I suppose a second-
term President will be perceived by his lameduck status to be 
illegitimate for the purposes of nominating Justices to the Supreme 
Court, and by that argument, likely illegitimate for the purposes of 
nominating anyone to the Court because he is a lameduck, and thus the 
people need to have their say in the next election.
  That is a radical transformation of the U.S. Constitution, and it 
sets up perpetual crises in which there could be long stretches of time 
equaling 4 years where we will have eight, seven or six Justices.
  Just simply accepting the assistant leader at his word, we would be 
establishing a new precedent in which the Supreme Court would have less 
than nine individuals for enormous stretches of time. But I think this 
is about something more. This is about an unwillingness to allow this 
President, a Democratic President, to replace a Justice on the Supreme 
Court while Republicans are in charge. They say it is because it is the 
last year of his term--or perhaps the last 4 years of his term. But if 
this is simply about a Democratic President replacing a Justice on the 
Supreme Court who tended to be more conservative, then that precedent 
has no end either. I think Republicans are naive to believe that 
Democrats wouldn't avail themselves of the same precedent at some point 
in the future and hold up nominees being offered by Republican 
Presidents. That is certainly not our hope nor is it the stated 
intention of anyone on this side of the aisle. But once you cross that 
Rubicon, I think it would be very hard to come back. All of a sudden we 
will have entered an era in which no Senate will want to take up the 
nomination of a President of the opposite party.
  Senator Cornyn talked about how there is very little precedent for 
this. Well, there is very little precedent because there are very few 
instances over the course of the last 100 years in which there has been 
a vacancy created in an election year. It is not because there is a 
history of past Senates blocking the replacement of a Supreme Court 
Justice when a vacancy occurs in an election year. It is because the 
very scenario we are faced with today has not happened. In fact, over 
the course of the last 100 years, the only time in which the Senate has 
not acted on a vacancy created in an election year was, A, very late in 
an election year and, B, with respect to the elevation to the position 
of Chief Justice. The reality is that in the last 100 years the Senate 
has taken action on every pending Supreme Court nominee to fill a 
vacancy, regardless of whether the nomination was made in a 
Presidential election year.
  Over the course of our Nation's history, there have been 17 Justices 
confirmed in a Presidential election year. Not since the Civil War has 
it ever taken more than a year to confirm a nominee for a Supreme Court 
vacancy. The average, of course--we heard it over and over--has been 67 
days from nomination to the final Senate vote.
  But what Senate Republicans are proposing is that this President--
with over 300 days left in his term--will not even get the courtesy of 
a vote in the Judiciary Committee, never mind a vote on the Senate 
floor. They contend that this nominee will be rejected sight unseen, 
which is why we think all America is saying to Senate Republicans: Just 
do your job. Go through the hearing process, meet with the nominee, and 
bring that nominee to a vote on the Senate floor.
  There were lots of Democratic Senators who opposed Clarence Thomas 
when he was nominated, but that didn't stop them from allowing a vote 
on the Senate floor. You can oppose this nominee once you take a look 
at their credentials and assess their suitability for the Court, but do 
your job and show the respect for the institution of the Presidency 
such that his choice will at least get a fair hearing in the Judiciary 
Committee and on the floor of the Senate.
  I hope that for my sons' sake the effect of our actions over the next 
year doesn't effectively rewrite the Constitution and that pages don't 
need to be added to their textbooks in order to place caveats on the 
obligations of the President and the responsibilities of this body. I 
hope we don't all of a sudden create a new rule in which you only get a 
vacancy filled if the Senate and the Presidency happen to be of the 
same party or you only get a vacancy filled, as Senator Cornyn would 
suggest, when you have a nomination in the first 4 years of your 
potential 8-year tenure.
  Lastly, what I worry about most greatly is the effect of this 
decision giving credence to the belief among some that this President 
is illegitimate. I don't think that is held by Members of this body, 
but I do know there are many in this country who don't recognize the 
legitimacy of this President, and the way in which we treat this office 
often gives purchase to those arguments. There is a standard of review 
that we have created for diplomatic agreements that we never held 
previous Presidents to. There is a furor over the Executive actions 
taken by this President even though previous Presidents have taken 
similar Executive actions--such as with the issue of immigration--and 
have taken far more Executive actions than this President has. I worry 
that, by disrespecting the institution and not even allowing for 
meetings to be held between this nominee and Members of the Republican 
majority, we feed this belief that this particular President doesn't 
share the legitimacy of previous Presidents.
  For all of those reasons, I hope we can just make a commitment to do 
our jobs and begin the process of considering the Supreme Court nominee 
once the President makes this nomination.
  I thank the Presiding Officer, and I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from New Mexico.
  Mr. UDALL. Mr. President, I rise today to talk about the prescription 
drug crisis. Every day someone in our Nation dies--a son, daughter, a 
parent--from a drug overdose. Most overdoses are from prescription 
drugs, such as opioid painkillers. Too often drugs that were intended 
to bring comfort end up bringing tragedy. Oxycodone, hydrocodone, 
OxyContin--we have an epidemic of these prescription drugs and the 
abuse of them. These drugs wreck lives, wreck families, and wreck 
entire communities.

[[Page S1331]]

  In my home State of New Mexico, we know this all too well. We have 
the second highest rate of drug overdose deaths. We are in a crisis, 
and it is getting worse. More New Mexicans are dying from drug 
overdoses than ever before. It touches home and it hits hard.
  One of those we lost was a young man named Cameron Weiss. According 
to the Albuquerque Journal, Cameron was 18 years old, an athlete, a 
poet, and then became addicted to painkillers for the treatment of 
sports injuries. That led, as it often does, to heroin. Within 2 years 
this promising young man with his whole life ahead of him was dead from 
a heroin overdose.
  His mom, Jennifer Weiss, took her grief and put it to work to help 
others. After Cameron's death, she founded a group called Healing 
Addiction in Our Community so she could help other young people 
struggling with addiction. She told the Albuquerque Journal the 
following:

       Something tragic has to happen before change happens. 
     Unfortunately, when it comes to heroin, that tragedy happens 
     all the time.

  Most of us know young people like Cameron. A similar story of another 
young life that was lost to a heroin overdose was shared with me last 
week. This young man's father who visited my office is a medical 
professional in New Mexico. With all of the resources and knowledge 
available to him, he was still not able to prevent his son's tragic 
death last year at the age of 22.
  One of my own staff members who was raised in Albuquerque lost four 
of his friends at Cibola High School. All four turned to heroin after 
abusing prescription drugs. One was his best friend, Michael, whose 
life was cut short at 30 years old.
  We see this pattern time and again. A person becomes addicted to 
painkillers and then turns to another prescription or to heroin, which 
is cheaper and easier to get. It is a lethal combination and a downward 
spiral.
  We have all heard the numbers, and they are chilling. Opioid-related 
deaths quadrupled nationally from 2002 to 2013. In 2014, nearly 30,000 
Americans died from prescription opioid and heroin overdose. More 
Americans die each year from drug overdoses than from car crashes. 
Addiction knows no boundaries of race, gender or background, but our 
Hispanic and tribal communities in places such as Rio Arriba County, 
NM, are ground zero. Year after year, Rio Arriba County has the highest 
rate of overdoses in the Nation, more than five times the national 
average.
  Just a few weeks ago KOB-TV reported on the toll that this has taken, 
generation after generation casting a long shadow over the beautiful 
Espanola Valley.
  A young man named Rufus Billy said: ``Growing up here, they'd say 
this was the heroin capital of the world.''
  For many, prescription painkillers come first and heroin comes later. 
According to KOB, prevention groups report that 2 million opioid 
prescriptions were filled in New Mexico in 2014, double the number from 
10 years ago.
  The abuse is so severe, according to Rio Arriba County Sheriff James 
Lujan, that ``6 and 7-year-olds are talking about grandma and grandpa 
being addicts. . . . It's like a never-ending cycle.''
  New Mexico is on the ropes and so many other States are as well. I 
listened to my colleagues from both sides of the aisle. The stories are 
heartbreaking, and, sadly, we are losing the fight.
  This is not just about numbers. It is about families and communities 
torn apart. Too often it is a story of those looking for help and not 
finding it. We can change that, but it will take more than words, more 
than handwringing. It will take a real commitment, and, let's be clear, 
real money.
  Rehab saves lives--not always, and that is a tragedy all its own for 
some families. But treatment certainly can't help when you can't get 
it. People are desperate and trying to get treatment and help. We see 
this every day, especially in rural States like New Mexico. That is why 
we need to pass the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, because 
this isn't just about addiction. It is about recovery and giving hope 
to those who feel hopeless.
  I am proud to cosponsor this bill, and I thank Senators Whitehouse 
and Shaheen for their leadership. CARA will help States and local 
communities fight this battle for prevention, education, treatment, and 
law enforcement efforts. CARA is a step forward, and we urgently need 
to move forward. We can't keep falling behind.
  In Spanish, C-A-R-A, ``cara,'' means face. We should remember the 
faces and remember our loved ones. These are not just statistics. That 
is why I have also introduced legislation to improve monitoring of 
prescriptions and to have a better referral for addicts to treatment 
services. It also directs the FDA to review naloxone, which is an 
important lifesaving medication for over-the-counter use.

  There is no doubt we have a crisis. We can't just say what works. We 
need to pay for what works. Our commitment has to be equal to the 
challenge, so I am quite disappointed that last week we did not adopt a 
key amendment for additional emergency funding. Let us step up to the 
plate and get this done.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. BARRASSO. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. BARRASSO. Mr. President, a couple of weeks ago, a small agency in 
New York State took a very big step that I think is very dangerous. The 
State Board of Regents said it will start giving some illegal 
immigrants a license to practice medicine in the State of New York. 
This is a State agency that grants certificates and licenses for more 
than 50 different professions. You need this board's permission if you 
want to be a nurse in New York, a pharmacist, a dentist or a doctor. I 
think it is a terrible idea to grant licenses to illegal immigrants 
because doctors, dentists, and others are entrusted to prescribe 
powerful medications. That is the point of the bill we are on right 
now. These include these very opioid painkillers we have been talking 
about for the past few weeks.
  Right now the Senate is debating what we can do to help communities 
and families who are struggling with abuse of these drugs. I think a 
big part of the problem is that these powerful medications are just too 
widely available. I can tell you that, as somebody who practiced 
medicine in Wyoming for 25 years, I worry that there are physicians and 
dentists who may be too free in prescribing opioids, very addictive 
medicines.
  There are pharmacists who maybe haven't been as careful as they could 
be about making sure the drugs are used appropriately by the people who 
come to pick up prescriptions, and families across the country have 
been hurt by this abuse of these opioids, including many in New York 
State itself. Senator Gillibrand came to the floor last week to talk 
about it. She talked about the problem of opioids being overprescribed 
in New York.
  So then the question is: Why is New York State so eager to allow 
these drugs to be prescribed and dispensed by people who we know have 
already broken the law? The legislation we are debating today tries to 
reduce the flow of opioids, to reduce the ways that they might be 
prescribed improperly. It includes language that would help States 
monitor and track prescriptions. That is a very important part of this 
legislation which I support.
  Senator Markey of Massachusetts has actually offered an amendment 
that would do even more. It would tighten the process for registering 
people to dispense powerful drugs like these opioids. Under the rules 
today, the Drug Enforcement Administration registers doctors before it 
allows them to write these prescriptions. Senator Markey's amendment 
says that before anyone could even get this registration, they would 
have to complete additional training.
  We all want to make sure people who have been handing out these 
medications can be trusted to do it responsibly. We all should have to 
be very careful about giving a prescription pad to someone who, by 
history and maybe even their identity, may be unclear. So I am 
submitting an amendment to this Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery 
Act that will help us do this. This

[[Page S1332]]

amendment actually takes the same approach as Senator Markey's does. It 
adds a simple requirement, a requirement that before the Drug 
Enforcement Administration can register someone to prescribe or 
dispense these powerful addictive medications, that this applicant must 
be able to prove that they are either a U.S. citizen or a legal 
resident. That is it.
  There is actually a Federal law already on the books that requires 
this. It was signed into law and passed by Congress and signed by Bill 
Clinton in 1996, but there was a loophole in the law that allowed 
States--like what New York is doing--States to come around later and 
exempt illegal immigrants from the requirement in their State.
  New York is doing that right now through its board. It is not the 
State legislature that is doing it in New York. It is not the citizens 
of New York who are doing it. They are not the ones saying they are 
willing to take a chance and loosen the standards of those who can 
prescribe these powerful, addictive medications. This is being done, 
and this decision is being made by a very small State agency acting on 
its own authority. I think this decision is much too important to be 
left to a small group of people in Albany, NY.
  I want to be clear. This is not about immigrants. This is about the 
threat that comes from the misuse of opioid painkillers. It is about 
maintaining the standards of the law. My grandfather came to this 
country. He did it legally like millions of others. He followed the 
rules. He worked hard. He continued to obey the law. We all know this 
is a country of immigrants, and we know America still proudly welcomes 
legal immigrants today.
  We also know that being a doctor is not like other jobs. When a 
patient goes to her doctor, she may literally be placing her own life 
in that doctor's hands. People need to have complete confidence that 
their doctor is ethical, honest, and can be trusted with life-and-death 
decisions. How can a patient have this kind of faith in someone who 
broke the law and is in the country illegally at this time? This action 
by the New York Board of Regents could seriously undermine the doctor-
patient relationship and the trust that needs to be there.
  Doctors are held to the highest possible standards. They need to be 
outstanding members of their community. In the State of New York, a 
doctor can actually lose their license if convicted of a crime. What is 
it being in the country illegally? Why would we then give a license to 
someone who already knows they have committed a crime by being in the 
country illegally? It makes no sense.
  As a doctor, I will tell you these opioid medications are very 
powerful. They can be abused, and they have been abused, especially if 
they fall into the hands of someone who is not up to the highest moral 
professional and legal standards who is writing the prescription in the 
first place.
  We in Congress have a responsibility to make sure such dangerous 
medications can be given out only by people who meet the standards. I 
think it would set a terrible precedent if we allow people who are in 
this country illegally to begin prescribing these highly addictive 
drugs, but that is what New York wants to do. I don't think we can 
allow someone who has broken the law to serve as the gatekeeper for 
those potentially dangerous medications. We owe every American the 
peace of mind that the doctor treating their sick child is who that 
doctor claims to be and that their doctor is in the country legally.
  The New York Board of Regents is ignoring, absolutely ignoring, this 
important public health and public safety concern. If New York will not 
act to protect its people, then Congress must.
  Thank you.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

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