Rep. Jim Cooper talks legislation to help DEA fight against opio - WSMV News 4

Rep. Jim Cooper talks legislation to help DEA fight against opioids

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Tennessee lawmaker speaks about his crusade to give law enforcement the power it needs in its fight against drugs.

Congressman Jim Cooper is trying to right the wrong of legislation. The DEA claims prevents them from freezing, and red flagging large shipments of opioids.

Cooper says Tennessee is one of the hardest hit states by the opioid epidemic. It hits all age groups, and goes across socio-economic lines. He says proposed legislation is meant to give power back to the DEA in its battle against opioids.

A former Drug Enforcement Agency official turned whistleblower told "60 Minutes" and the Washington Post the DEA is struggling to crack down on mass distribution of prescription pain pills across the country in part because of bills passed by Congress.

“It sounded good on the surface if you just read the description,” said Cooper. “What it did, if you read the text of the bill, was to curb the watchdog powers of the DEA.”

The bill in questions was co-sponsored by Representative Marsha Blackburn. According to the text it was written "to improve enforcement efforts related to prescription drug diversion and abuse," in fact does the opposite, according to the “60 minutes investigation.”

Cooper says the law dramatically altered DEA procedures, and made it harder for the agency to battle the spread of opioids into the black market.

Cooper says the pharmaceutical industry holds a lot of sway in Washington D.C. and that there are lobbyists across the beltway.

“The bill I've introduced would correct this,” said Cooper. “The bill I've introduced would restore the watchdog, restore the teeth to the DEA."

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri has introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

Cooper believes a vote could come as soon as next week.

“We probably need to go back and look at all the testimony for the bad bill, and see who was lying in that testimony. Let’s see who wrote the false description of the bill that slipped through congress,” said Cooper.

Representative Marsha Blackburn has declined an on-camera interview. Her office released a statement it says in part, "She believes that congress should continue its work to address the issue and conduct oversight.”

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