Blackburn drops hold on funding bill after HHS disputes crack pipe claims

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) on Tuesday dropped her vow to slow-walk a short-term government funding bill after she got reassurances from the Biden administration that federal funds wouldn’t go toward the purchase of crack pipes as part of a harm reduction program. 

“Senator Blackburn lifted her hold after she received an answer in writing from the HHS Secretary committing that no taxpayer funding will be used to fund crack pipes,” a spokesperson for the GOP senator said. 

Blackburn announced last week that she was placing a hold on the continuing resolution that would fund the government until March 11 amid reports in conservative media that funding from a harm reduction grant program run by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) could be used to provide safe smoke kits, which the initial reports said could include crack pipes. 

The Biden administration has dismissed the report as incorrect, saying it was never on the table. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra also said the grants would not be used for pipes, but Blackburn indicated earlier Tuesday that she was still waiting for a response from HHS and that she had not dropped her hold.  

The Senate has until the end of Friday to pass the short-term government funding bill and avoid a government shutdown. The House previously passed the bill last week to give appropriators more time to work out a deal on fiscal 2022 funding.  

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) moved to force an initial vote on taking up the short-term funding bill as soon as Thursday. In order to meet the Friday night deadline, Democrats would need a deal with Republicans to speed up the bill and get it over procedural hurdles.  

Republicans are pushing for amendment votes in exchange for agreeing to speed up the government funding bill. 

Republicans say they want a vote related to President Biden’s vaccine mandates as well as a balanced budget amendment from Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.). 

Tags Charles Schumer Joe Biden Marsha Blackburn Mike Braun Xavier Becerra

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