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It’s Dems vs. Obama on Needle Exchange

President Obama disappointed a lot of health care advocates earlier this year when, contrary to campaign vows, he declined to include in his budget the elimination of a decades-old ban on federal funding for needle exchange programs, which have been shown to prevent blood-borne illnesses like HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C.

Enter the House Democrats.

A House Appropriations subcommittee today approved a massive $161 billion funding bill for the labor, health and education departments, including language to pluck the needle-funding ban that Obama didn’t.

Reuters has the money quotes that are indicative of the partisan debate that’s sure to loom, first from Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.):

Scientific studies have documented that needle exchange programs, when implemented as part of a comprehensive prevention strategy, are an effective public health intervention for reducing AIDS/HIV infections and do not promote drug use.

And on the other side, here’s Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kans.), the senior Republican on the Labor/HHS Appropriations Subcommittee:

I am very concerned that we would use federal tax dollars to support the drug habits of people who desperately need help.

Earlier this year, we reported on how the Obama White House [had bucked our European allies](safe injection facilities, drug substitution therapies and other programs designed to mitigate the damaging effects associated with illegal drug use.) to oppose a nonbinding international resolution in support of so-called “harm reduction” measures, which include needle exchanges, safe injection facilities, drug substitution therapies and other programs designed to curb the damaging health effects related to illegal drug use. At the time, several House Democrats had raised eyebrows (and written letters) about the administration’s position, only to fall silent when it became clear that the White House was sticking to its guns.

In the eyes of many in the health care community, Congress redeemed itself today.

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