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EXCLUSIVE: A pair of Republican lawmakers authored new legislation to ban federal taxpayer dollars from funding crack pipes, needles and other drug paraphernalia, following a firestorm over a viral report that alleged the Biden administration would be funding crack pipes for addicts.
Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Dan Bishop of North Carolina said in an exclusive joint interview with Fox News Digital that the Biden administration got caught “red-handed” trying to fund crack pipes as part of a $30 million grant program and that legislation is needed to stop the “ridiculous” proposal. The White House has denied the grant would fund crack pipes.
“Congressman Bishop and I are standing up and saying, heck no,” Boebert said. “Our tax dollars should not be funding the death and destruction of crack addicts. Democrats are always putting the American taxpayer last and Republicans just want to give people in need a good job. Democrats want to give them crack pipes.”
They’ve introduced the Halting the Use of Narcotics Through Effective Recovery Act this week, dubbing the bill the HUNTER Act, in reference to President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, who has openly struggled with drug addiction.
“I like the HUNTER Act,” Boebert said in an interview, “because it was a better acronym than Stop Paying to Subsidize Biden’s Son’s Drug Addiction act. That didn’t really flow. I think tax dollars have been on the hook for Hunter’s addictions long enough.”
Bishop also took aim at more progressive drug policies such as safe injection sites, needle trade-ins, and safe smoking kits. He said such programs try to “remove all stigma” from drug use, when “actually stigma is not a bad thing.”
“The HUNTER Act is a means of encapsulating how ridiculous public policy can become when it’s in the hands of the woke,” Bishop said.
The hubbub over crack pipes originated from a $30 million new “harm reduction” grant proposal the Biden administration announced through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which is a branch of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The stated purpose of the program funded through the Democrats’ American Rescue Plan is to prevent overdose deaths and reduce health risks associated with drug use. A list of supplies that can be purchased with the grant funds included overdose reversal medications, safe-sex kits with condoms, fentanyl test strips, syringes, as well as “Safe smoking kits/supplies,” according to grant documents.
The Washington Free Beacon reported that such kits will provide pipes for users to smoke crack cocaine, crystal methamphetamine and “any illicit substance.”
The outlet acknowledged an HHS spokesman declined to specify what is included in the smoking kits. It also mentioned other efforts to distribute safe smoking kits didn’t provide pipes, but mouthpieces to prevent glass cuts, rubber bands to prevent burns and filters to minimize the risk of disease.
The paper has stood by its crack pipe reporting, despite pushback from the Biden administration.
Both HHS and the White House quickly put out statements in response saying the grant funds wouldn’t go to crack pipes.
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra’s Wednesday statement made clear that no pipes would be put into “safe smoking kits.”
In a press release, Becerra and Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Dr. Rahul Gupta said the administration was “focused on using our resources smartly to reduce harm and save lives. Accordingly, no federal funding will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to put pipes in safe smoking kits.”
And White House press secretary Jen Psaki has called the crack pipe story “misinformation.”
“They were never a part of the kit; it was inaccurate reporting,” Psaki said of the crack pipes. “And we wanted to put out information to make that clear.”
She said safe smoking kits may include “alcohol swabs, lip balm, other materials to promote hygiene and reduce the transmission of diseases like HIV and hepatitis.”
The White House declined to comment on the “HUNTER Act.”
But Boebert and Bishop said they weren’t taking the White House’s word and want legislation to ensure no drug supplies are funded.
“Whenever they are caught red-handed they use the phrase misinformation or disinformation to stop the American people from calling them out,” Bishop said. “That’s what happening.”
“We want that in statute,” Boebert added. “We’re not taking their word for it.”
The House legislation follows a Senate bill, known as the Cutting off Rampant Access to Crack Kits (CRACK) Act. GOP Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Tim Scott of South Carolina, John Kennedy of Louisiana and several other Republicans fired off the bill Thursday to block American Rescue Plan funds from funding the purchase and distribution of drug paraphernalia to drug users.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration is catching heat from the left for saying it won’t fund crack pipes in the kits.
The liberal nonprofit group Drug Policy Alliance said the decision “to remove pipes from safe smoking equipment is deeply disappointing. This is a missed opportunity to be preventative of more deaths due to overdose.”
The group on Twitter highlighted the reality that “people do drugs” and “removing access to clean equipment doesn’t stop people from using drugs. It makes it more risky.”