Pubdate: Thu, 30 Apr 1998
Source: Orange County Register (CA) 
Author: Joan Lowy-Scripps Howard News Service


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

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."