Congressman Marsha Blackburn is blaming the Drug Enforcement Administration for not speaking up if legislation she co-sponsored is causing such a problem. An investigation by "60 Minutes" and the Washington Post highlighted her role in a law that made it tougher for the DEA to regulate opioids.
Former DEA lawyers told "60 Minutes" that legislation backed by Blackburn made it virtually impossible to suspend shipments of opioids that looked suspicious — like way too many pills going to a pharmacy in a tiny West Virginia county. After the story came out, the Brentwood Republican acknowledged there could have been unintended consequences.
But at a hearing responding to the investigation by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Blackburn pointed the finger at the DEA. She said a formal update about how the new law was working out is six months overdue.
"You've heard the frustration with this panel for not getting information we need from the DEA," she said. "So we're adding this to the list. Where's the report? What's the status of it? When should we receive it?"
DEA officials said they had turned in their portion of the report to the Department of Health and Human Services, which is in charge of putting together the review.
Blackburn also forced those who testified to say — explicitly — whether there are any statutes currently preventing them from responding to the opioid crisis. No one said yes. But the representative from DEA, Neil Doherty, deputy assistant administrator of the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control, did imply his agency wanted improvements to the law in question.