Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ashcroft Prompts Question of Drug Testing in Senate

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ashcroft Prompts Question of Drug Testing in Senate

Article excerpt

Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Mo., wants to test his 25 office employees for illegal drug use.

But the Senate Rules Committee is asking him to hold off, saying the Senate has no drug policy - and hasn't even considered the issue for a decade.

So Ashcroft has asked, and the committee has agreed, that the matter be among the first taken up when Congress resumes in early January. "Due to the importance of this issue, we both agree that this matter should be brought before the committee as soon as it reconvenes in the next Congress," Chairman John Warner, R-Va., and ranking member Wendell Ford, D-Ky., wrote to Ashcroft. Ashcroft raised the issue last month in a letter to the two committee leaders. He asked: Could he use personal office funds to test for drugs? Are other Senate funding sources available? What language must be included in his office policy about testing? Could it be done randomly, or once a year, or only at hiring? Warner and Ford responded that the committee had addressed the issue in 1986, and "due in large part to the questionable legality of drug testing at that time, the committee did not approve the use of official office expense account funds for drug testing." "We believe it prudent to have the full committee address this issue before drug testing is specifically recognized as an official office expense . . . In the meantime, we have asked committee staff to fully analyze the concerns associated with drug testing, and to assess what rules or guidance should be provided to offices in the event the committee authorizes the expenditure of office funds for drug testing." Ashcroft's spokeswoman, Doreen Denny, says there's no suspicion of drug use in the office. She said it's a matter of principle - that Senate employees should undergo the same scrutiny as those in business, and senators should share the same level of accountability as other employers. The goal is not to force every Senate office to test for drugs, Denny said, but rather have it made clear that doing so is permitted by senators as "individual employers. …

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