Manchin ties repeal of opioid enforcement law to budget fight

Manchin ties repeal of opioid enforcement law to budget fight
© Keren Carrion

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinMcConnell to Dems: Don't hold government 'hostage' over DACA Lawmakers see shutdown’s odds rising Senate campaign fundraising reports roll in MORE (D-W.Va.) wants to link repeal of a law that critics say enables the flow of deadly and addictive opioids to the budget being debated this week. 

Manchin, whose state has been hit particularly hard by the opioid crisis, has filed an amendment to the fiscal year 2018 budget supporting repeal of the law, which was signed by President Obama in April 2016 after passing the House and Senate with little fanfare. 

The amendment supports "restoring the ability of the Drug Enforcement Administration to enforce our nation's laws and help stop the opioid epidemic, which may include repealing the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016." 

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Because the budget isn't signed by President Trump and Manchin's amendment is establishing a "reserve fund" — basically a place-holder for future legislation — it wouldn't automatically repeal the 2016 law. 

But Manchin's proposal could get senators on the record amid outrage sparked by a joint Washington Post-“60 Minutes” report that the legislation is undermining the Drug Enforcement Administration's ability to police drug distributors and was influenced by industry lobbying. 

Manchin's amendment hasn't been scheduled for a vote. But under the rules of a vote-a-rama, expected to start on Thursday, any senator can force a vote on any proposal.

Also supporting the amendment is Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinSenate campaign fundraising reports roll in Listen: EMILY’s List upbeat about Dem House in '19 Bolton to spend M boosting Wisconsin Senate candidate MORE (Wis.), like Manchin a Democrat up for reelection next year in a state Trump won.

Lawmakers are taking a new look at the law following the report, with several seeking an outright repeal. 

Critics argue that by raising the standard of evidence required by the DEA, it weakened the agency’s authority to prosecute drug distributors who were providing opioids to the market with little oversight.