Brad Byrd was joined by Congressman Larry Bucshon to discuss the multitude of issues facing our country, and Buschon’s legislation to strengthen opioid controls involving senior citizens.
Brad Byrd: Welcome to InDepth. In this very hot summer…the heat remains high on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers have a bevy of issues they are facing. I’m joined tonight by Indiana Eighth District Congressman Larry Bucshon. Congressman, thanks for joining me tonight.
Congressman Laryy Bucshon: Well, thanks for having me tonight, Brad. I appreciate it.
Brad: You’re playing major role – let’s talk about this first issue first – and would be the opioid crisis in America. You’re pushing legislation that is aimed at what some view as an addiction problem involving our seniors – elderly people. Tell me exactly what this legislation would do,
Congressman Bucshon: Yeah, well, first of all, the opioid crisis is hitting everyone across socio-economic groups, across age groups, really been building for about the last 20 years, but now we’ve reached really a pinnacle here and we’re getting contaminated heroin coming in with fentanyl and people are dying from it. So what we’re trying to do, especially for seniors, because seniors are included in that group that are being, primarily affected by prescription drugs, is making sure that when you sign up for Medicare initially, the physician on your entry physical examination asks you about chronic pain and if you’re using opioids. The other thing we’re trying to do is make non-opioid alternatives more, uh, I would say easy to prescribe because in hospitals, opioids cost almost nothing, but a lot of the non-opioid alternatives are very expensive. So we’re doing a couple of things with Medicare to try to evaluate seniors initially and give them advice. And then also make non-opioid alternatives available.
Brad: And that takes me to some of the pushback on this because an elderly person who has been legally prescribed, either Perocet or Lortab or Tramadol, opioids, uh, if that would be potentially taken away, a non-opioid painkiller, uh, you’re a doctor…
Congressman Bucshon: Right.
Brad: Are those really as effective as opioids?
Congressman Bucshon: Well, some are and some aren’t. It depends on the patient. For example, my father. My father’s 83 and he has chronic back problems. There’s really nothing surgically that can be done. And non-opioid alternatives, like Advil, he actually can’t take ‘cause he’s had some kidney issues. So he, he does depend on an opioid a couple times a day just to be able to get out of the chair. So what we want to do is make sure that people have good advice. But we also want to make sure that people have the availability of medicines prescribed by their physician for legitimate chronic pain issues. And I think that is a big issue and we’re paying attention.
Brad: And in this day and age of well, uh, some would say a lack of bi-partisanship…
Congressman Bucshon: Yeah.
Brad: What is the chance that this can survive Capitol Hill?
Congressman Bucshon: I think it’s going to. The legislation is actually a big package that has already passed through the House and the Senate is doing the same, the same thing. And so, I think that it’s going to get to the President’s desk. This has been a bi-partisan effort. You know, opioid addiction is not a partisan issue. And we’re doing all kinds of things. There’s other things we needed to do to give the government more authority, for example, to prevent these things from being mailed to the United States from China, primarily. So it’s really comprehensive. I encourage viewers to go to my official website and they’ll be able to get more information about what Congress is doing on the passage.
Brad: You tell me tonight you’re going to be heading to the border…
Congressman Bucshon: I am.
Brad: And we are in the middle of a huge debate in this country on the separation of immigrant children from their parents and I know you’ve made a statement online…
Congressman Bucshon: I have, yes.
Brad: and you, you do not tolerate the separation of immigrant families.
Congressman Bucshon: No. I don’t think it’s the right approach. Let me just a little background on why it happened. During the Obama administration when families came to the border, it would be like getting a traffic ticket and then give, get a court date. And that’s what they did for these families and then with sponsors or family members released them into the United States. The Trump Administration changed that policy and instead of just giving you a ticket and giving you a court date, they actually physically arrested people for crossing the border illegally. And I think what they didn’t understand, initially, was by law, they were going to have to separate children from their parents. And when President Trump realized this was an issue, he did an Executive Order to reverse it. So that was appropriate, that they did that…
Brad: And the order has been reversed, but there’s estimates that perhaps 2,000 children are still separated from their families, and this is throughout the countries.
Bucshon: Yea, we thinks that’s the case. You know, the administration is actively getting these kids back to their parents. But it’s a more complicated problem because we have about 12,000 children in our custody because 10,000 are here unaccompanied. They came across the border without adults. That’s what I’m going to find out when I go down to the border. Health and Human Services has these shelters and, as a physician, I’m going to visit and see how they’re being taken care of. But, it’s a bigger issue with children other than just the family separation. We have about 10,000 unaccompanied minors who are in the care of the United States government. We’re trying to get them back to their home countries with their families, but it’s a complicated issue.
Brad: And talking about borders, not only the one to the south but also to the north, and beyond. Tariffs. Are we heading into a trade war that may damage jobs right here in Indiana?
Buschon: I hope not. Because I’m not a big tariff person, and don’t think that’s the right approach for fair trade and getting deals with countries. But the president’s strategy is different and I think both Republicans and Democrats have voiced our concerns to the administration that we do not want a trade war. Particularly for our agricultural industry. In Indiana, the soy beans that we grow here are exported to China. Two thirds of China’s export market for soy beans comes from the United States. So, I think it’s more of a negotiating tactic. I am co-chair of the Aluminum cacus in the House, I think that they are hopeful that we will come to an agreement with both the E.U. and Canada, Mexico, and China, and the tariffs with not be permanent and will not hurt our workers.
Brad: Let’s talk about the U.S. Senate now. It doesn’t involve the House but does affect the country. The president says next Monday he’s going to announce his pick for nominee for the next Supreme Court justice. How do you feel about a conservative justice, which most people believe it will be, and the impact that may have?
Bucshon: I don’t know any of the people on the list, but I can tell you that from what I’m reading and what I hear from the administration, they have some very strong candidates for the position. And I do think that President Trump is going to appoint a conservative judge to the court. And I do think they’ll be confirmed. I’m going to wait and see. The House isn’t involved in the confirmation process. But I do think Justice Kennedy wanted to retire under a Republican president with a Republican Senate for a reason, because he wanted a conservative judge appointed to the court.
Brad: Roe versus Wade. That has been the one ruling that has been on the books now for…going on 50 years. There is talk that that could be reversed by a new court. Where do you stand on that issue?
Bucshon: First of all, I’m pro-life, and I don’t believe abortion is the right approach. I’m a pro-life person and I have been for decades. Roe v. Wade I think was wrongly decided based on state’s rights. I think the Supreme Court should have stayed out of it and allowed the states to make that judgement. That said, I think the president will not be asking any new judge the question of how they would rule on that case because that case won’t be before them. There may be other cases related to abortion that come before them, and I think pro-life judges will make those decisions more in a pro-life way than maybe some have in the past. So, I do think that this judge will take a conservative approach like some of the others on the court. And we’ll jut have to see where things go.
Brad: Alight, Congressman Larry Bucshon, thank you so much for joining us tonight. There will be much more to talk about as the year progresses. As always, we will give equal voice in this as elections come closer.
Bucshon: As you should.
Brad: Thank you Larry Bucshon.
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(This story was originally published July 5, 2018)