Rep. Cooper joins call to repeal law restricting DEA response to - WSMV News 4

Rep. Cooper joins call to repeal law restricting DEA response to opioid epidemic

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U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-TN (WSMV file photo) U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-TN (WSMV file photo)

Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper is joining the call to restore power to the Drug Enforcement Agency following an explosive investigation by “60 Minutes” and The Washington Post that uncovered a law currently prevents agents from cracking down on opioid abuse.

People who work with recovering addicts told News 4 it's disheartening to find out lawmakers made their jobs more challenging.

"It's astounding and I'm very upset by it," said Rebecca Baillie, a treatment specialist with Addiction Campuses in Nashville.

Baillie helps people struggling with drug and alcohol abuse, and saw the investigative piece by “60 Minutes.” It uncovered the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016 derails the DEA's ability to freeze suspicious opioid shipments.

"It is personal for me. I have had my own struggles, and I have had countless friends very close to me over the last 20 years overdose and die from the opiate epidemic," Baillie said.

On Thursday, Rep. Cooper called for action on Twitter, joining a bipartisan effort to repeal the law. The 2016 law sailed through the House and Senate onto President Barack Obama's desk last year. At the time, legislators thought it would improve enforcement.

Middle Tennessee State University professor and News 4 political analyst Kent Syler weighed in via Facetime.

"I think it's safe to say the majority of people who allowed this on the consent calendar thought it was totally non-controversial, took the name of the legislation at face value, and those things do happen," Syler said.

He said Congress should figure out if the drug companies and distributors misled them or if the lawmakers didn't understand the ins and outs of the bill.

"Who's fooling who is kind of the question we come down to," Syler said.

Baillie said any lawmaker who makes it harder for DEA agents to do their job should be held accountable. Several Congress members received campaign donations as a result of sponsoring that law, including Tennessee Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn.

Tennessee Citizen Action is calling on Blackburn to return that money. Click here to read the organization's full statement.

Blackburn's office sent a statement earlier this week saying in part, "any unintended consequences from this bipartisan legislation should be addressed immediately."

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