Senate

Rubio holding up funding bill over crack pipes

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is holding up a quick vote on a short-term spending bill as he pushes for passage of his bill prohibiting federal funding from going toward crack pipes and other drug paraphernalia. 

Rubio confirmed that he is trying to get a vote on his bill, which he introduced last week with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), in exchange for speeding up the continuing resolution (CR). Because senators are days away from the Friday night deadline to prevent a shutdown, they need buy-in from all 100 senators in order to speed up the bill. 

“My hope is we can just pass it without anybody objecting to it, especially since the administration is already claiming they don’t need it — they’re not going to do that,” Rubio said, referring to the administration saying that federal funds won’t go toward crack pipes. 

Senate leadership is currently running a “hotline” on Rubio’s bill, where they check in with all 100 Senate offices to see if anyone would block quick passage of Rubio’s bill. 

If Rubio’s bill gets a vote, it would be as a stand-alone bill separate from the CR. Making any changes to the government funding bill would require it to be passed again by the House, which is out of town, by the Friday night deadline. 

“It would be a free-standing bill that you would have to give consent to,” said Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, who warned that conversations on the funding bill are “fluid.” 

Rubio isn’t the only GOP senator who has a hold on the bill. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) are pushing for votes on vaccine mandate-related amendments, and Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) wants a vote on a balanced budget amendment. 

But Rubio’s hold on the funding bill, which would keep the government open through March 11, comes after senators resolved a standoff with GOP Sen. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), who had also pledged to block quick passage of the CR unless she got more information from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that it wouldn’t use federal funding on crack pipes or other drug paraphernalia. 

The issue spun up last week out of reports from conservative media that HHS was providing pipes for smoking crack as part of a harm reduction program. The Biden administration has dismissed the reports as incorrect, and they’ve also been fact-checked by organizations including The Washington Post and The New York Times.

Though HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said the grants would not be used for pipes, Blackburn said she is looking for more information from the agency. A spokesperson said on Tuesday night that she had “received an answer in writing from the HHS Secretary committing that no taxpayer funding will be used to fund crack pipes.” 

The Rubio-Manchin bill would prevent the government from purchasing syringes and needles to be used for illegal drug injection. The bill also dictates that federal funds can not be used to “procure, supply, or distribute pipes, cylindrical objects, or other paraphernalia that can be used to smoke, inhale or ingest narcotics,” according to a press release. 

Tags Continuing resolution crack pipes government funding Joe Manchin John Thune Marco Rubio Marsha Blackburn Mike Braun Mike Lee Ted Cruz Xavier Becerra

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