This week: Drug abuse bill hits Senate floor

The Senate plans to take up legislation addressing the opiod epidemic this week, while the House is expected to consider measures regarding Iran and environmental regulations.

Senators are poised to take up legislation from Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Overnight Finance: House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama | GOP leaders to consider Dec. 30 spending bill | Justices skeptical of ban on sports betting | Mulvaney won't fire official who sued him How four GOP senators guided a tax-bill victory behind the scenes MORE (R-Ohio) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseOvernight Regulation: Net neutrality supporters predict tough court battle | Watchdog to investigate EPA chief's meeting with industry group | Ex-Volkswagen exec gets 7 years for emissions cheating Overnight Energy: Watchdog probes Pruitt speech to mining group | EPA chief promises to let climate scientists present their work | Volkswagen manager gets 7 years for emissions cheating EPA head pledges to protect climate scientists MORE (D-R.I.) aimed at combating heroin and prescription drug abuse. 

But the legislation—which passed out of the Judiciary Committee by a voice vote—is facing hurdles from Democrats who want to attach $600 million in emergency funding. They argue that the spending is necessary to get help immediately to communities ravaged by the addiction epidemic. 

While Democrats have sidestepped saying they will sink the larger bill if the provision backed by Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenDems demand Tillerson end State hiring freeze, consult with Congress The Hill Interview: GOP chairman says ‘red flags’ surround Russian cyber firm Schumer celebrates New York Giants firing head coach: ‘About time’ MORE (D-N.H.) isn't included, Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidBill O'Reilly: Politics helped kill Kate Steinle, Zarate just pulled the trigger Tax reform is nightmare Déjà vu for Puerto Rico Ex-Obama and Reid staffers: McConnell would pretend to be busy to avoid meeting with Obama MORE (D-Nev.) stressed last week that the amendment should get "every consideration." 

The otherwise bipartisan bill authorizes—but doesn't appropriate—funding for programs to combat prescription drug and heroin abuse, in addition to increasing the availability of naloxone, a drug to treat overdose.

Republicans are hoping to avoid an unexpected floor fight that could threaten to stall the legislation, with Senate aides suggesting that negotiations are playing out at the leadership level. 

Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters MORE (R-Ky.), separately, said late last week that he’s “hopeful we can reach an agreement to finish this bill with just a handful of amendments.” 

The ability to successfully navigate the legislation through the upper chamber would also be a boon to Portman, who faces a tough reelection bid. He's touted his efforts to combat drug addiction as he looks to localize his Senate race. 

Portman told The Hill last week that while he wants to keep his legislation non-partisan, he's open to having votes on amendments.

The Senate will take its first procedural vote Monday at 5:30 p.m. on whether or not to end debate on proceeding to the bill. The move will require 60 votes, including the support of at least six Democrats. 


The House is expected to vote Monday on a resolution that would call on Iran to assist with the case of Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent who disappeared in 2007.

The Iranian government released five Americans detained in Iran in January after months of delicate negotiations with the Obama administration. Those citizens included Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, former Marine Amir Hekmati and pastor Saeed Abedini.

“Even as we rejoice in the safe return of others, we will never forget about Bob,” President Obama said at the time. “Each and every day, but especially today, our hearts are with the Levinson family, and we will not rest until their family is whole again.”

The FBI has offered a $5 million award for information that leads to Levinson.

Clean Air Act, Medicaid payments

The House has a relatively light workweek through Thursday, with only noncontroversial bills considered under suspension of the rules slated for consideration on Monday and Tuesday.

On Tuesday - the same day as the Super Tuesday presidential contests - eleven out of the 12 bills on tap are measures to name federal buildings.

A bill to prohibit federal payments for nonemergency services from providers that no longer participate in Medicaid, Medicare or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is expected to come up for a vote on Wednesday.

Thursday’s agenda will consist of legislation that would exempt the brick making industry from having to comply with Clean Air Act regulations for air pollutant emission standards.

Meanwhile, Republicans are still weighing their options for a budget this year. House GOP leaders initially envisioned scheduling floor votes on the budget for early March. But that goal has slipped given the intraparty divisions over whether to abandon last year’s budget deal, a move that would risk the fate of the appropriations process.