Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday defended the Justice Department's performance on issues like gay rights and prescription drug trafficking under pointed questioning by newly energized Republicans who have taken control of the House.
At a four-hour appropriations subcommittee hearing, Holder was criticized for the administration's decision to stop defending the constitutionality of a federal law banning recognition of gay marriage.
The panel's chairman, Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia said the move was inappropriate and that it almost looks more like "a political decision than anything else."
Holder responded that the step taken last week was unusual but is appropriate, because lower courts have declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and the legal landscape on gay rights has changed since DOMA became law 15 years ago.
Newly appointed House Appropriations Committee chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said the Justice Department has been doing an inadequate job of stopping the flow of illegally obtained prescription drugs to states like Kentucky from the point of origin for most of the trafficking, Broward County, Fla.
"It's an absolute disgrace" with so many people involved in the illicit trade flying back and forth to Florida that "they call it the OxyContin Express," complained Rogers. OxyContin is a prescription medication used to relieve moderate to severe pain.
"Crook doctors operating these pill mills" are out of control complained Rogers, who demanded that Holder do something. Rogers said that "my people are dying."
"They're not your people," Holder replied. "They're my people; they're American citizens."
Holder said the department's Drug Enforcement Administration is working with state and local police and is "using the tools we have. ... We're dead serious about this issue."