Pubdate: Thu, 30 Apr 1998 Source: Orange County Register (CA) Contact: Website: http://www.ocregister.com/ Author: Joan Lowy-Scripps Howard News Service NEEDLES GET ZERO TOLERANCE POLITICS: The House approves legislation to make Clinton keep his word that he won't use federal funds for exchange programs. WASHINGTON-The House on Wednesday approved a bill designed to prevent President Clinton from doing something he has said he won't do-use federal funds for needle-exchange programs. Republicans said the bill-which bars the government from subsidizing local programs that provide clean needles to drug addicts in an attempt to reduce the spread of the AIDS virus - sends a message of "zero tolerance" for drug use. "The Clinton administration's endorsement of needle-exchange programs is part of an intolerable message to our nation's children sent by the White House that drug use is a way of life," said Rep. Gerald Solomon, R-N.Y. "It's time for this Congress to stand up once again and deliver a resounding message that drug use kills and that the best way to deal with addiction is to never use drugs in the first place. Just like Nancy Reagan used to say when she was here, 'Just say no.' That's the message we ought to be sending out to children," Solomon said. AIDS activists and public health officials have been urging Clinton to permit federal funds to be used for needle-exchange programs, citing studies by the National Institutes of Health and others that conclude that the distribution of clean needles reduces AIDS cases without increasing drug addiction. Clinton said last week that he supports local needle-exchange programs, but will not use federal money to subsidize those programs. Democrats accused Republicans of partisan grandstanding by generating a vote on a "non-issue." The bill was approved 287-140. Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., said the bill was "designed to label political opponents as less than zealous in fighting illegal drug use" and that debate on the measure amounted to "a two-hour campaign sound bite." Even though the outcome of the vote never was in doubt, the rhetoric of the debate was at times inflamed. "A woman gets raped in the street by a heroin addicts, what are we going to tell her when she finds out that the needle that enabled that addict to get the heroin and then get him on the street to rape her came from" a government needle-exchange programs, asked Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind. Solomon said the bill - which was introduced Friday - was rushed to the floor without going through the usual process of committee hearings and votes "because tomorrow another life may be lost." Admissions by Clinton and his press secretary, Michael McCurry, that they tried drugs in their youth "encourages a new generation of drug users in this country," House GOP Whip Tom DeLay of Texas charged. "Instead of leadership, we get a 'dead head' president that supports a program that gives free needles to drug addicts," DeLay said. Ardent fans of the Grateful Dead rock band, which came to prominence in the 1960s San Francisco drug culture, are frequently called "dead heads."