Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

Pelosi Leads Opposition to Massive Colombian Drug War Bill;  Decries Lack of Funding for Domestic Drug Treatment and Prevention

March 29, 1999

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Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-SF) employed a parliamentary tactic that allowed her to lead a spirited debate Wednesday on the House floor decrying the lack of funding for domestic drug treatment and prevention in the $1.3 billion Colombia "drug war" bill.

"The lack of funding for domestic drug treatment and prevention is a subject worthy of serious debate," Pelosi said Thursday. "We are facing a Ďtreatment gapí in our ability to provide help to 3 1/2 million people who need it in this country."

Pelosiís floor maneuver involved a motion to cut $51 million in funding earmarked for the Colombian military in order to force a debate on the need for additional funding for domestic programs. Although Pelosiís $51 million maneuver ultimately failed by voice vote, as expected, she and her allies were able to dominate floor debate for 2 1/2 hours.

"Letís agree that we all want to fight the scourge of drugs in this country. And letís agree that we all want to help the people of Colombia. But is this the right way to go?" she asked her House colleagues. "We are not doing nearly enough for demand reduction. Our top priorities should begin at home. We had a golden opportunity to do drastically more for the people of this nation and we didnít take it."

"If we fund $1.3 billion for ĎPlan Colombiaí to reduce supply internationally, surely we should find a similar amount for treatment services and prevention programs to reduce demand domestically," Pelosi said.

A Rand Corporation study found that money spent on domestic drug treatment was 23 times more effective than "source-country" control.

The impact of substance abuse on families, public safety, employment and productivity is deep and well documented. The total cost of substance abuse to society in the United States is staggering at about $246 billion a year. But according to a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) study based on findings from the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, every $1 spent on drug abuse prevention will likely save $15 in reduced health, justice and other costs to society.

Prior to todayís debate, Pelosiís attempts to add funding for drug treatment and prevention were defeated along party lines by both the GOP-led House Appropriations Committee and the GOP-led House Rules Committee.

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