TribLive: U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb introduces first two bills in Congress

By Wes Venteicher

U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Mt. Lebanon, last week introduced his first two pieces of legislation since taking office at the beginning of April.

Lamb introduced a bill Tuesday that would provide a way for the Department of Veterans Affairs to spend more money on a proposed overhaul.

Two days later, he teamed with U.S. Rep. David Joyce, R-Ohio, to propose a bill that would provide money for law enforcement officers to buy high-tech chemical screening devices similar to those used at airports.

The proposed VA overhaul, known as the VA MISSION Act, has received support from veterans service organizations and opposition from some labor unions. It would change the VA’s system of contracting with non-VA doctors and the process by which the department closes VA facilities that are considered outdated or underused, while also expanding a caregiver program to include veterans who served before 2001. It also would designate more money for a program in which veterans can choose to see private doctors.

Lamb said in a speech on the House floor that his bill would allow the VA to spend some money in a way that wouldn’t count toward the VA’s budget cap, allowing more money to go toward the proposed overhaul.

“We have to spend what it takes to get the job done,” he said.

In a news release about the bipartisan bill proposed with the Ohio Republican Joyce, Lamb cited the dangers of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is driving up overdose rates across the country and can be dangerous to officers and first responders.

The chemical screening devices, known as inderdiction devices, “would enhance both officer safety and the efficiency of investigations,” according to the release.

“Fentanyl is killing people every day in Western Pennsylvania. Even being near it is dangerous,” Lamb said. “Our officers are risking their lives to get fentanyl off the streets, but they need better tools. This bill gives our officers more of what they need, and it will help prosecutors convict more fentanyl dealers.”