State's Opioid Epidemic Looms as Issue in U.S. Senate Race
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) - Handling the opioid epidemic in Tennessee could become a major difference between U.S. Senate candidates Marsha Blackburn and Phil Bredesen.
Both appeared separately Friday at an opioid summit in Nashville sponsored by the non-profit medical education group Healthy Tennessee.
During Bredesen's appearance, he called the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) "defanged" by a 2016 congressional law that limited the agency in policing the pipeline of large opioid shipments opioid from drug companies to corrupt health care providers and then to the street.
Bredesen supports Congressional repeal efforts.
"I will tell you one of the very first things I am going to do as a U.S. Senator is to sign on to one of those Senate bills that helps drive this forward and bring back into the DEA's hands some very basic tools that let it deal with some of these enforcement issues," said the former Tennessee governor to the group.
Afterward, before reporters, Bredesen called out his opponent Marsha Blackburn for being one of the Congressional co-sponsors of the 2016 bill and not doing anything to change it.
"When it got called out by 60-Minutes and the Washington Post and state attorneys general around the country, she said this is an unintended consequence and we will fix it and that was 300-odd days ago and nothing has happened," said Bredesen.
When asked about that characterization while attending an agriculture luncheon Friday with Iowa U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, Middle Tennessee, Rep. Blackburn had a different take.
"Every member of the U.S. Senate, Democrat and Republican, every member of the U.S. House Democrat and Republican submitted the language change DEA submitted. DOJ (Department of Justice) signed off on it and President Obama signed into law," said Blackburn.
She continued by saying, "the goal is to get more immediate suspension orders--and to shut down pill mills and things. We all said if it does not work, come back to us and we'll change it."
Blackburn said DEA has failed to give Congress a report on the bill's impact and "when they give us the change they want we will take the action."
Critics contend the bill changed the language making it tougher to stop the large shipments from drug manufacturers through health care providers that could end up on the streets.