Pubdate: Fri, 12 Dec 2014
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2014 The Washington Times, LLC.
Author: John P. Walters
Note: John P. Walters, director of drug control policy for President 
George W. Bush, is chief operating officer of the Hudson Institute.


There's New Opportunity for the Senate Drug Caucus

Establishment Washington too often forgets that while most 
legislative matters affect segments of the country, drug policy is a 
national concern.

When the American people gave Republicans majorities in both houses 
of the next Congress, they certainly indicated dissatisfaction with 
the performance of the Obama administration and the Democratic Party. 
But soon, the voters will ask what the Republican Congress has done 
with its leadership of the legislative branch. Despite strong 
majorities, Republicans are unlikely to override presidential vetoes, 
which means Congress will have limited power to implement sweeping 
changes that require presidential cooperation. Redefining issues and 
setting forth a governing agenda may therefore be as important as 
enacting laws for the next Congress.

Debate is the essential element of a political order based on consent 
of the governed. Deliberation, oversight and lawmaking stand in 
contrast to rule by fiat and mere exercise of power. The Senate 
(partly from its particular rules) used to be thought of as the 
institution most associated with debate, compromise and resolution - 
less a political tool (as wielded by Senate Majority Leader Harry 
Reid, Nevada Democrat) and more a means to address important national 
issues. With a Senate majority comes Republican control of Senate 
committees and structures that can restore these deliberative 
functions on a range of issues important to American families. I 
recommend that the incoming Senate leadership revitalize and use one 
such structure: the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, 
otherwise known as the Senate Drug Caucus.

The Senate Drug Caucus has been used effectively by Republicans and 
Democrats to shape drug control policy and related legislation, 
including matters of foreign policy, interdiction, law enforcement, 
treatment and prevention.

The Senate Drug Caucus has worked with presidential administrations 
to track rising drug threats and give voice to public alarm that is 
frequently ignored by bureaucrats and elites. Occasionally, the 
Senate Drug Caucus has been harsh with administrations (sometimes 
fairly, sometimes unfairly), but it was always engaged, calling 
officials to account for the stewardship of the public trust they held.

With Republicans taking over Senate leadership, the Senate Drug 
Caucus can and should be used to bring attention to the rapid rise in 
drug use and trafficking. Leaders of executive departments and 
agencies with drug control responsibilities should be called to 
explain policies that have blocked federal law enforcement, 
undermined prevention education and largely abandoned international 
allies in combating violent trafficking organizations.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, did an admirable job running 
the Senate Drug Caucus in the past, and may wish to do so again, in 
which case his leadership would be welcome. Sen. Jeff Sessions, 
Alabama Republican, a former prosecutor with a keen understanding of 
the nexus between a porous border and international drug trafficking, 
would make a strong caucus chairman. So would Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio 
Republican, who is a leader in the anti-drug coalition and 
understands the forces behind the transnational criminal 
organizations that are at the heart of the global drug trade. One of 
the incoming senators, finding the flexibility and wide scope of the 
Senate Drug Caucus an excellent basis for quickly establishing a 
record of leadership, also might make a strong chairman.

The impact of mistaken drug control policy is everywhere, from the 
emerging law enforcement and public health disaster of legalized 
marijuana in the United States to far-flung concerns over 
Afghanistan's heroin, Colombia's fight against cocaine, Mexico's 
stability and judicial integrity faced with transnational organized 
crime and the security of our own border.

Establishment Washington too often forgets that while most 
legislative matters affect segments of the country, drug policy is a 
national concern, affecting public health, crime, foreign affairs, 
the economy and the safety of American communities. Today, that 
concern lacks a clear champion in Congress. The Senate Drug Caucus 
should be such a champion, for the millions of Americans threatened 
by the dangers of increased drug use under the Obama administration.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom