Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) plans to hold up a bill to keep the government funded until the Biden administration responds to her questions about whether a program intended to help people with substance-abuse disorders could be used for pipes to smoke illicit substances, reports the Wall Street Journal. The Senate is aiming to pass a three-week government funding bill by Friday, when a current funding bill expires, to provide breathing room for negotiators to reach a deal funding the full fiscal year. A Senate Democratic aide said that there isn’t enough time to go through each step in the process with the maximum amount of debate time and avoid a temporary shutdown. “All we want to know is how much money they are using for safe-smoking kits? What is in the kits? Where is this money going?” Blackburn said. “Once I get an answer, I will lift my hold. I’m just waiting for an answer.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said that no federal funding “will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to put pipes in safe smoking kits.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said pipes were never part of the program, saying instead the kits would include items such as alcohol swabs to reduce the transmission of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis. Blackburn said that HHS hasn’t responded to a letter in which she asked Becerra to clarify whether the Biden administration was authorizing the distribution of pipes for people to smoke crack cocaine, crystal methamphetamine and other illicit substances.