Credit: POTUS (Sirius XM)
I’m Julie Mason, so pleased welcome back to the show, Congressman David Trone, a Democrat of Maryland representing his state’s sixth congressional district. He is rated in the top 10% of all current U.S. House members for finding common ground as rated by the Common Ground Committee, a nonpartisan nonprofit working to reduce incivility and political polarization. He scored a 90 on their scorecard, much higher than the average of all elected officials, which is, excuse me, about a 26. He is the highest ranking elected official in Maryland. Find out where your congressperson ranks at commongroundscorecard.org. Congressman, welcome back!
It’s great to be back, Julie. Thank you.
These common ground scorecards are so interesting and the members who rank very, very high either do very well in their scorecard are always working on interesting stuff.
Yes, no question. We’ve got to pick your battles and pick where you can work together, because, I mean, we’re getting paid to move the needle for the American people on a whole myriad of problems. So we’ve got to focus on the things that we can work together and then go to the other side of the aisle and spend time, getting to know each other. If you know each other, you can work together.
I mean, one area that most members seem to agree on is fentanyl and what a terrible problem it is, and you’ve been quite active on that issue.
I’ve been leading the Congress on the fentanyl issue since I got there, its a major reason I ran for Congress, you know, I lost my nephew, Ian Trone. He was 24. He died of a fentanyl overdose in 2016 and probably everybody on this show has lost someone or knows someone who has died of fentanyl. Over a million Americans now 100,021 over 100,022 of overdose deaths and 80% of those are sensible. So I’ve been very, very active on this. We have a bipartisan mental health and substance use Disorder task force, and we put over a hundred bills out last year, 100% bipartisan, 26 of them were signed into law. Some good stuff like state opioid grants, you know, 8.75 billion, you know, for five years, medically assisted treatment, housing efforts, lots of stuff. And it got to be bipartisan to get this stuff done.
How do we dig ourselves out of this fentanyl hole?
Well, I’ll tell you, I co-chaired with Senator Tom Cotton, so he’s a very conservative Republican and myself a Democrat. And he and I worked side by side on this task force appointed by the Speaker of the House. McConnell, Schumer and McCarthy and Speaker Pelosi at the time. And we spent over a year on this and with the Mexico City Athletic CODEL there. We went to the border. We interviewed and spoke with everybody, the intelligence community, law enforcement, DEA. We had all of them as part of our task force. D.O.D. was on it, Treasury was on it, State Department was on it, the DEA, ONDCP, and at the end of the day, we came up with a pretty clear message to the American people, in our report, and it was China is doing nothing and will do nothing to stop the precursors coming to Mexico. And the Mexican government is doing virtually nothing to crack down on the cartels. Politico and similar cartels, the two major cartels that are driving the fentanyl across the border and with 200,000 cars a day coming through legal entry points, roughly 94%. It’s not coming with someone carrying across the border on their back over the river. It’s driven over the border by generally Americans. Americans driving cars working for the cartel are bringing the product over and the 200,000 cars a day we can’t stop it. So we got to focus on demand prevention, demand reduction, education, treatment. We had 76 bipartisan recommendations with some already been put forth. We got the administration working on others. And we’ll continue to work this year to move the needle on that. But Democrats, Republicans all agree. Same solution.
I mean, it’s overwhelming. When you describe the cars coming over with that fentanyl and all the vehicles. We’re already awash in fentanyl and it takes a tiny amount just to kill one person. How much more fentanyl do we need. Yeah, go ahead. I’m sorry.
No, no, no. You nailed it. I mean, it’s one pack of Sweet’N Low will kill 500 Americans. 500! It literally takes about 5 to 7 tons, that’s two pickup truck loads, two loads in a pickup truck. That’s all it takes to supply America. They continue the catastrophic death rate that we’re having. Stanford estimates will be 1.2 million people will die of overdoses in this decade, 80% that fentanyl. And that number is growing. So it’s so deadly.
You you address this sort of hand-in-glove with mental health issues. Can you tell us about that and the connection?
Well, absolutely. Co-morbidity in these two issues is, of course, 57%. So, so many folks like my nephew suffered from depression, anxiety. And honestly, with COVID, if you haven’t suffered from anxiety with COVID, it’s amazing because it all. And then a lot of depression. It’s really spiked the mental health problem throughout America. And President Biden in his previous State of the Union address and his unity agenda, which I thought was really important, because unity is what we need here in America. He addressed the number one issue for America was addiction, and number two was mental health. And I couldn’t agree more, and no one, no one has done more than President Biden putting his money, money in the budget, dollars in the budget to addiction, dollars to mental health. He’s put more dollars than all the previous presidents combined, literally in the first two years because he sees what a tragedy it is. And I spoke to the president numerous times about this, and he’s very clear he’s lived that tragedy in his family with mental health, depression, anxiety, an addiction. He’s he’s with us on this issue. But we’re losing the battle.
Congressman, before I run out of time with you. You have called on your colleagues to raise the debt limit. And I wonder where you think that debate is heading.
Well, it needs to head to conclusion. I mean, how simple is this? You owe your credit card bills you owe your mortgage. These are past debt. And if you don’t pay your mortgage, you don’t pay your credit card bills, catastrophic things happen to you and your family. Well, that’s what the debt ceiling is about for America. This has pass money that we owed. It’s nothing to do with spending today. But we’ve got to stop the 20 odd Republicans who don’t want to do anything to help our country. So there’s a wonderful group of Republicans I work together with hand in glove day after day after day always will. But there’s 20 folks that all they care about is throwing bombs. All they care about is being in the newspaper, being on Twitter, raising money. And I’m sick of it. And I think most Americans are sick of it because all we hear about. And they’ve got to they’ve just got to go away and we’ve got to do what’s right for America, and that’s honoring our bills. And then we should work together. Everybody wants to get more of a balanced budget. I mean, I’m a business guy. I’m not a politician. For 40 years, I own my own business. And I have to balance the budget every year and make a profit. And certainly we need to do for our country to do better. But we all hold the whole debate hostage by saying we’re going to renege on our debt we already incurred.
Congressman David Trone is a Democrat of Maryland. He’s rated in the top 2% of all current U.S. House members for finding common ground as rated by the Common Ground Committee. Congressman, thank you so much for joining me.
So happy to do it. Thanks for your attention. These issues are of such national importance, addiction and mental health.
Thank you. Great to catch up. I’m Julie Nathan.