Society

Senate Ends Limits On Drug Testing For Unemployment

| by Ray Brown

The U.S. Senate voted to end certain limits on drug-testing for unemployment benefits, which will allow states to require people submit to drug tests before receiving any financial assistance.

The Senate voted along party lines, 51 to 48, overturning a Labor Department rule that was enforced during the administration of former President Barack Obama. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.

"As we saw too often, the Obama administration went beyond its legal authority in creating legislation that limits the role of state governments," Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said from the Senate floor, according to The Hill.

McConnell then said that the Labor Department "should go back to the drawing board."

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Democrats have opposed the measure because they said states will be given free reign to randomly drug test people without reason in order to deny them financial assistance they need.

"This idea that there is a presumption of irresponsible conduct and guilt is just baseless," Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said from the Senate floor before the vote.

According to Politico, the vote marked the eighth Obama administration regulation that the GOP Congress has ended through the Congressional Review Act, a little-used, 20-year-old law that allows Congress to put an end to executive orders by a vote of disapproval.

"Yesterday, congressional Republicans continued their attack on the poor by forcing drug testing as a prerequisite for receiving unemployment benefits. As a former recipient of such services, I am appalled by the Republican Party’s discriminatory policies and deeply-sown disdain against those battling poverty," said Democratic Rep. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin.

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Drug testing applicants for financial assistance is a controversial issue that Republicans tend to like and Democrats tend to oppose.

In Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott stuck Florida taxpayers with a $1.5 million legal bill after he challenged federal courts that ruled his drug testing of welfare applicants to be unconstitutional. Scott eventually gave up the fight and refused to take the case to the Supreme Court, reported WGN.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin also got into legal entanglements over his desire to drug test public assistance applicants when he preemptively sued the Obama administration in 2015 to allow Wisconsin to enforce drug tests. But the case was thrown out after a judge said Walker had no right to sue because the Obama administration had not challenged or rejected his claim on the matter.

Sources: The Hill, Politico, WGN / Photo Credit: U.S. Navy/Jim Watson via Wikimedia Commons

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