U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper on Thursday introduced a bill to repeal a 2016 measure that critics said curbed the power of the Drug Enforcement Agency to stop the illegal flow of opioids to pharmacies around the country.
Controversy over the law ensnared U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, after a joint investigation by "60 Minutes" and The Washington Post featured a whistleblower accusing her and other lawmakers of backing a measure that led to lax scrutiny and a rise in opioid deaths.
The reports also noted that Blackburn received $120,000 in campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry.
Fallout from the reports was almost immediate. The day after the stories became public Blackburn said any "unintended consequences" from the 2016 should be addressed immediately.
The next day, Rep. Tom Marino, a Pennsylvania Republican who joined Blackburn in backing the 2016 legislation, withdrew himself from consideration as President Donald Trump's nominee for drug czar.
Cooper, D-Nashville, is joined by U.S. Rep. Evans Jenkins, R-W. Va., and two Democrats — U.S. Reps. Anne McLane Kuster from New Hampshire and Tim Ryan of Ohio — in introducing the bill.
“We need to restore DEA’s full powers, not hamper the agency the way the drug industry wanted,” Cooper said in a statement Thursday. “Congress made a terrible mistake letting the drug industry bill slip through. Congress should correct that mistake NOW!”
Prior to the legislation's passage in 2016, the DEA had been able to halt drug distributors from sending millions of opioids to doctors and pharmacies who law enforcement thought were feeding people addicted to opioids.
Blackburn, Marino and other sponsors of the 2016 law previously said it was necessary in order to ensure patients had access to pain medicine.
Reach Anita Wadhwani at firstname.lastname@example.org, 615-259-8092 or on Twitter @AnitaWadhwani.