Senate Confirms DEA Administrator
By Andrew Ramonas | December 23, 2021 12:57 pm

The Senate on Wednesday night confirmed Michele Leonhart by unanimous consent to lead the Drug Enforcement Administration after a Democratic senator announced that he had dropped his hold on the nominee.

Michele Leonhart (photo by Daniel Hoffman / Main Justice)

Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin had threatened to hold up Leonhart, the acting head of the agency since November 2007, over his concerns about the DEA’s progress on addressing agency policies that he said hindered the dispensation of prescription drugs to nursing home residents. Kohl, a senior Senate Judiciary Committee member and the chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, said he received assurances from Attorney General Eric Holder that the administration of President Barack Obama would work with him on legislation that would alleviate his worries, The Hill reported.

Leonhart will be the first Senate-confirmed DEA head since Karen Tandy resigned in 2007. Obama nominated her on Feb. 2, but the Senate Judiciary Committee did not report her out until Dec. 1.

Kohl’s concerns about the quick dispensation of prescription drugs to individuals in long-term care facilities predates Leonhart’s nomination.

Kohl and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) wrote in an October 2009 letter to Holder that stepped-up efforts by the DEA to combat illegal prescription drug use have made it hard for ailing nursing home residents to get quick pain relief.

The Wisconsin senator met with Leonhart in May about his concerns on the dispensation of prescription medicine. In August, the senator asked the DEA for feedback on draft legislation that would allow nurses at nursing homes to prescribe drugs such as morphine.

Kohl pushed Leonhart to get back to him on the legislation during her nomination hearing in November. But she would not tell the senator at her hearing when he would get a response from her agency.

Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement, “With more than 30 years of exemplary service at the Department of Justice, I look forward to continuing to work with Michele Leonhart in her new role at the DEA.”

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The Senate Democratic leader describes the Republicans' refusal to hold hearings on President Obama's eventual Supreme Court nominee "historically unbelievable and historically unprecedented."


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