Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) delays a quick vote on a short-term spending bill as he pushes for passage of his bill banning federal funding from going to smoking pipes crack and other drug paraphernalia.
Rubio confirmed he was trying to get a vote on his bill, which he introduced last week with Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.), in exchange for accelerating the continuing resolution (CR ). Because the senators are days away from the Friday night deadline to prevent a shutdown, they need the buy-in of all 100 senators in order to expedite the bill.
“I hope we can just pass it without anyone objecting, especially since the administration is already claiming they don’t need it — they won’t,” Rubio said. , referring to the administration saying federal funds won’t go toward crack pipes.
The Senate leadership currently operates a “hotline” on Rubio’s bill, where they check with all 100 Senate offices to see if anyone would block the speedy passage of Rubio’s bill.
If Rubio’s bill gets a vote, it would be a standalone bill separate from the CR. Making changes to the government funding bill would require it to pass the House, which is out of town, again before the Friday night deadline.
“It would be a stand-alone bill that you would have to give your consent to,” said Sen. John Thune (SD), 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 grip on the bill. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) are pushing for votes on vaccine mandate 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 government open until March 11, comes after senators resolved a standoff with GOP Sen. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), who had also committed to blocking CR’s rapid passage unless it gets further information from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that it does not use federal funding for crack pipes or other drug paraphernalia.
The issue arose last week following reports from conservative media that HHS was providing pipes for smoking crack cocaine as part of a harm reduction program. The Biden administration has dismissed the reports as incorrect, and they have also been verified by organizations including The Washington Post and the New York Times.
Although HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said the grants would not be used for tips, Blackburn said she was seeking more information from the agency. A spokeswoman said Tuesday evening that she had “received a written response from the Secretary of HHS pledging that no taxpayer funding will be used to fund crack pipes.”
The Rubio-Manchin bill would prevent the government from buying syringes and needles to use for injecting illegal drugs. The bill also states that federal funds cannot be used to “procure, supply, or distribute pipes, cylindrical objects, or other paraphernalia that may be used for smoking, inhaling, or ingesting narcotics,” according to a statement. Press.