Bipartisan senators urge Congress to fund fight to curb opioid crisis

Bipartisan senators urge Congress to fund fight to curb opioid crisis
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of senators is calling on Congress to provide significant funding to battle the opioid epidemic — and quickly.

The nine senators hail from areas the epidemic has hit particularly hard, and are arguing there’s an “urgent need for Congress to provide our states with the resources they need to deal with this public health emergency” in a letter sent Friday to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSessions: 'We should be like Canada' in how we take in immigrants NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Overnight Finance: Lawmakers see shutdown odds rising | Trump calls for looser rules for bank loans | Consumer bureau moves to revise payday lending rule | Trump warns China on trade deficit MORE (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats will need to explain if they shut government down over illegal immigration White House: Trump remarks didn't derail shutdown talks Schumer defends Durbin after GOP senator questions account of Trump meeting MORE (D-N.Y.).

“As the Senate considers pending supplemental and omnibus appropriation legislation, please make every effort to ensure that new, substantial and sustained funding for the opioid epidemic is included in any legislative package,” the senators wrote.

Democratic leaders have been pressing for any larger spending deal to include more funding to combat the crisis killing thousands of Americans each year, but GOP leader have not committed to more funding.

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“We've done a lot, put a lot of resources into combatting opioids already,” the Senate’s No. 3 Republican, John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneWeek ahead: Tech giants to testify on extremist content Overnight Tech: GOP senator presses Apple over phone slowdowns | YouTube cancels projects with Logan Paul after suicide video | CEOs push for DACA fix | Bill would punish credit agencies for breaches GOP senator presses Apple on phone slowdowns MORE (S.D.), said last week. “If they've got a proposal, I'm sure we would take a look at it, but I don’t know that that's at least on the agenda at the moment.”

The epidemic has been plaguing both rural and urban areas across the country, leading to the rate of opioid overdose deaths quadrupling since 1999.

In late October, President TrumpDonald John TrumpDems flip Wisconsin state Senate seat Sessions: 'We should be like Canada' in how we take in immigrants GOP rep: 'Sheet metal and garbage' everywhere in Haiti MORE declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency, though the move didn’t free up money nor did it include a specific funding ask to Congress. Democratic lawmakers and some advocates panned the measure as ineffective unless it includes a robust infusion of federal funds.

The senators’ letter noted comments from a Dec. 4 press conference, where Eric Hargan — acting secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services — said the administration is “looking forward to hearing from Congress about how they intend to address this issue.”

“That means it is up to us to act,” the senators wrote.

The senators who signed onto the letter include Democratic Sens. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseySenate campaign fundraising reports roll in Senate Finance Dems want more transparency on trade from Trump Trump's 's---hole' remark sparks bipartisan backlash MORE Jr. (Pa.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenSupreme Court to hear online sales tax case State official indicates US military role in Syria post-ISIS centered on Iran Overnight Health Care: Dems press HHS pick on drug prices | Alexander, Trump discuss ObamaCare fix | Senate Dems seek B to fight opioids | Maryland eyes ObamaCare mandate replacement MORE (N.H.), Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanTrump signs bipartisan bill to combat synthetic opioids Seth MacFarlane: Idea of Trump, Oprah match-up 'troublingly dystopian' Overnight Health Care: Dems press HHS pick on drug prices | Alexander, Trump discuss ObamaCare fix | Senate Dems seek B to fight opioids | Maryland eyes ObamaCare mandate replacement MORE (N.H.), 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 (W.Va.) and 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.) and Republican Sens. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoGOP may increase IRS’s budget People with addiction issues should be able to control their own health data Trump signs bipartisan bill to combat synthetic opioids MORE (W.Va.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSessions torched by lawmakers for marijuana move Calif. Republican attacks Sessions over marijuana policy Trump's executive order on minerals will boost national defense MORE (Alaska) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsDemocrats search for 51st net neutrality vote Overnight Tech: States sue FCC over net neutrality repeal | Senate Dems reach 50 votes on measure to override repeal | Dems press Apple on phone slowdowns, kids' health | New Android malware found Overnight Regulation: Dems claim 50 votes in Senate to block net neutrality repeal | Consumer bureau takes first step to revising payday lending rule | Trump wants to loosen rules on bank loans | Pentagon, FDA to speed up military drug approvals MORE (Maine), as well as independent Sen. Angus KingAngus Stanley KingMcConnell to Dems: Don't hold government 'hostage' over DACA Overnight Regulation: Regulators kill Perry plan to help coal, nuke plants | Senate Dems to force net neutrality vote | Maine senators oppose offshore drilling plan | SEC halts trading in digital currency firm Maine senators oppose Trump's offshore drilling plans MORE (Maine.)  

At a press briefing Thursday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to specify an amount or a timeline for additional money.

“The amount of money that it will take to combat this crisis is huge. We’re going to continue looking at the best ways to do that,” she said. “We’re working in an interagency process to see what that number looks like.”

When a reporter pressed if the appropriation would come by the end of the year, Sanders said, “I’m not aware that we can promise that a full funding for that would take place by the end of this year. This wasn’t a problem that happened overnight. We’re not going to be able to fix it overnight.”