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U.S. House to Consider Again Drug Testing Itself


May-June 1998

U.S. Representatives Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Gerald Solomon (R-NY) have cosponsored a resolution (H.Res. 456), which calls for mandatory drug testing of all members of the U.S. House of Representatives and their staff (Francesca Contiguglia, "Gingrich Plans to Drug Test His Own Staff," Roll Call, May 4,1998).

In May, Congressman Barton wrote a letter to The Hill supporting of drug testing. Barton wrote that exempting themselves from drug testing while expecting to decrease drug use among the American people sends the wrong message to children (Representative Joe Barton, "Congress Should Have Drug-Testing Requirements," The Hill, May 6, 1998, p. 46). [As though potentially drug-using teenagers know about the existence of Congress, let alone whether its members are drug tested. It is typical of Congressional hubris that Barton would think that requiring members of Congress to be drug tested will influence teenage decision making about drug use. It is more likely to give individualists, or those concerned about individual rights, one more reason not to run for Congress or other elected office. -- EES]

The resolution would allow for four different types of testing: mandatory random testing, pre-employment testing, probable cause testing, and testing for people who have already acknowledged a drug problem. Congressman Barton's office did not know of any similar resolutions in the Senate and told NewsBriefs that they are currently waiting to see when the bill will come to the House floor.

The House drug task force that introduced the Barton-Solomon bill also commissioned a report, by attorney Mark deBernardo, which concluded that mandatory drug testing of Representatives is unconstitutional. The report, Legal Issues Regarding Drug Testing of House Members and Staff, says "If mandatory , suspicionless drug testing of Members of Congress is the inevitable policy of the House, some very good lawyering and very creative legal thinking would be necessary to create even a 20 percent chance of prevailing in court." The report found that the same constitutional problems would make testing of all Congressional staff difficult, but testing employees in positions that require high security would be more feasible (Francesca Contiguglia, "House Moves Closer to Drug Tests," Roll Call, April 9, 1998, p. 1).

Rep. Joe Barton - 2264 RHOB, Washington DC 20515, Tel: (202) 225-2002, Fax: (202) 225-3052.

Rep. Gerald Solomon - 2206 RHOB, Washington, DC 20515, Tel: (202) 225-5614, Fax: (202) 225-6234.

Mark deBernardo, Executive Director, Littler Mendelson law firm, 1225 I Street NW, Suite 1000, Washington DC, 20005, Tel: (202) 842-3400, Fax: (202) 842-2929.