HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Bush's Choice As 'Drug Czar' Receives Heavy Fire
Pubdate: Wed, 10 Oct 2001
Source: Reuters (Wire)
Copyright: 2001 Reuters Limited

BUSH'S CHOICE AS 'DRUG CZAR' RECEIVES HEAVY FIRE

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - John Walters, President Bush's nominee to head the 
U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, came under Democratic fire on 
Thursday at his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Sen. 
Joseph Biden of Delaware, both Democrats, openly challenged Walter's 
drug-fighting philosophy.

They noted Walters, who served in the office of drug control policy in the 
administration of Bush's father, President George Bush, has questioned the 
effectiveness of drug-abuse treatment and the need for federal support of 
drug-abuse prevention.

Leahy also said while a number of lawmakers and judges have called for the 
repeal of federal mandatory minimum sentences, Walters has defended such 
punishment.

Leahy said he does not know how many senators share his concerns about 
Walters, but wants the nominee to answer a number of questions in writing 
before his panel votes on whether to send the nomination to the Senate for 
confirmation.

Leahy Not Convinced

"I do not doubt that John Walters has thought seriously about our nation's 
drug problems, but I do doubt the conclusions that he has reached and 
forcefully expressed on issues ranging from drug treatment to interdiction 
to sentencing issues," Leahy said.

"In short, I'm not yet convinced that he is the right person to head the 
Office of National Drug Control Policy," Leahy said.

Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, ranking Republican on Judiciary Committee, along 
with a number of other Republicans raced to Walters' defense.

"The best-qualified individual to lead our nation's fight against the 
scourge of illegal drugs is President Bush's nominee for drug czar, John P. 
Walters," said Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican. "I urge his speedy 
confirmation."

Walters, in his prepared testimony on Wednesday, told the Senate Judiciary 
Committee, "I have always believed that the fundamental elements of 
effective drug control policy are consistent with common sense."

"We need to prevent young people from experimenting with drugs," he said. 
"We need to help those who have become addicted get off and stay off drugs."

Black Caucus Opposed

"We need to use the coercive power of the criminal justice system and other 
supply reduction programs to support the domestic prevention and treatment 
efforts, as well as pressuring and disrupting drug trafficking 
organizations," Walters said.

Last week, about two dozen members of the Congressional Black Caucus in the 
U.S. House of Representatives urged the Senate to reject the Walters' 
nomination.

In a letter to senators, they wrote: "At a time that policy-makers at all 
levels of government are seeking to address racial disparities in the 
criminal justice system, John Walters denies that such disparities even exist."

"John Walters has a long record in opposition to important reforms that 
could significantly reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice 
system," they said.

"While both President Bush and DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) 
Administrator Asa Hutchinson have said they are willing to look at 
reforming mandatory minimums and concentrating more resources on a 
demand-side approach to drug abuse, John Walters has opposed these 
positions in the past," they complained.
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