Candy Apples and Toads

Candy Apples and Toads 4An analogy I like to use for the legislative process invokes candy apples and toads. Legislation rarely includes only things I like – the candy apples – or omits the things I really dislike – the toads. Considering whether to support a bill usually means weighing whether there are enough candy apples to cover up the bad taste of a few toads.

End-of-year legislating usually provides plenty of opportunities to apply this test. As the year draws to a close, Congress once again finds itself closing in on a deadline to fund the Federal Government for the fiscal year that began on October 1.

As in previous years, we did not need to be in this situation. Federal law prescribes a budget process of individual appropriations bills that should go through regular order at the committee and floor level.

Just following the rules could help us avoid the scramble to resolve everything with one bill that, even if read, Members of Congress rarely get to fully scrutinize before having to give it an up or down vote.

Because the omnibus bill funding the government for the rest of the fiscal year ending September 30 has not yet been agreed to by negotiators, Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) continuing current funding for just one week.

Like omnibuses, I generally do not find CRs to be a proper way to fund the government. But as with any other bill I vote on, I read this CR.

It included an extension for the Rare Pediatric Disease Priority Review Voucher program for two years. This program encourages the development of new drugs to treat rare pediatric diseases. The innovation promoted by this program can lead to new treatments that help improve and save the lives of children suffering from rare diseases.

While skeptical of CRs, I support the extension of the Rare Pediatric Disease Priority Review Vouchers, so I voted for this CR. In the best instances, legislation rarely includes everything I want to see or leaves out anything I do not support.

In this case, extending the program for two years was a candy apple that made voting for the one-week toad of a CR acceptable.

The Right Way to Legislate on Marijuana

In my last column, I discussed my opposition to H.R. 3884, a broad bill to legalize marijuana, expunge marijuana convictions, and provide taxpayer support for businesses and individuals associated with the marijuana industry.

It was a sweeping, partisan effort that made major changes at a time when the Congress should have other priorities. Despite my support for changes to marijuana law, it was the wrong bill at the wrong time.

The week afterward, the House voted on another bill related to marijuana, my Medical Marijuana Research Act. I believe this was the right approach to marijuana legislation.

The Medical Marijuana Research Act would ensure a sufficient supply of research-quality marijuana through the National Institute on Drug Abuse Drug Supply Program. It also authorizes more research so that we understand more specifically the medical benefits and side effects of marijuana on the human body. It would also direct the Food and Drug Administration to issue guidelines on the production of marijuana and encourage authorized manufacturers to produce marijuana for the researchers under the law.

I was an original cosponsor of the bill in this Congress, and along with a bipartisan team we had introduced it in previous years. Unlike H.R. 3884, it had support that spanned parties and also different views about marijuana legislation. Whether you want marijuana broadly prohibited, broadly legalized, or fall somewhere in between, you should want to see more data about its effects.

Because of its widespread support, the bill this year had moved through the House Energy and Commerce Committee without opposition and passed on the House floor in the same manner. Its consideration did not take up valuable legislative time in the same way as H.R. 3884.

I was pleased to see the Medical Marijuana Research Act pass the House and hope it will advance into law. It represents the right way to legislate on marijuana – with prudence and based on data.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.

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