McConnell moving forward with drug abuse bill

McConnell moving forward with drug abuse bill
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell expects Paul to return to Senate next week Former Hill staff calls for mandatory harassment training Gaming the odds of any GOP tax bill getting signed into law MORE (R-Ky.) said Thursday that he plans to bring forward a bipartisan bill to fight the opioid crisis “in the coming days,” but a partisan fight lurks over the question of funding. 

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McConnell said that he is planning to bring up the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) soon. The bill has bipartisan support and passed the Judiciary Committee on a voice vote. 

Democratic leaders say that while the bill is a good first step, it only authorizes funding and doesn't actually appropriate any funds. They are pushing an amendment from Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenDefense bill includes 3,500 more visas for Afghans who helped US troops Overnight Finance: Day three of tax bill markup | Ryan says election results raise pressure for tax reform | Tax whip list - Where Republicans stand | Justice, AT&T spar over CNN sale | 25 Dems vow to block spending without Dream Act Russia crackdown survives NDAA conference MORE (D-N.H.) to add $600 million in emergency appropriations. 

Election-year politics are also playing in; Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSenate GOP reveals different approach on tax reform GOP senators: Moore should step aside if allegations true Senate set for clash with House on tax bill MORE (R-Ohio), facing a tough reelection race, is a lead sponsor of the bill and has been touting his support. 

In a press conference calling for adding funding to the opioid bill earlier this month, Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump is right: The visa lotto has got to go Schumer predicts bipartisan support for passing DACA fix this year No room for amnesty in our government spending bill MORE (D-N.Y.), the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat, derided Republicans for “put[ting] the names of senators who are up for reelection” on bills without including new funding. 

“I join the Republican leader on the need to address the scourge of opioid addiction,” Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidTop Lobbyists 2017: Grass roots Boehner confronted Reid after criticism from Senate floor GOP in uncharted territory rolling back rules through resolutions MORE (D-Nev.) said on the floor Thursday following McConnell’s remarks. “It is a scourge. That’s why it’s more important than ever we back our words with real solutions, real resources. That’s why the amendment by Senator Shaheen to the opioid bill will be important and I hope it gets every consideration, and I hope it passes.”

McConnell’s earlier remarks on Thursday did not address the Democratic push for added funding, but instead noted that the bill has “garnered a great deal of support from both sides of the aisle.”

Earlier this month, McConnell’s office pushed back on Democrats’ argument, saying the regular appropriations process should be used and “we certainly hope that our friends on the other side of the aisle aren’t looking for a justification to try and block a bipartisan bill addressing a national crisis.”

CARA authorizes funding for a range of programs to fight the epidemic of prescription drug and heroin abuse, including education and prevention, as well as boosting the availability of naloxone, a drug to treat overdoses. 

Some advocacy groups don’t want passage of the bill to be threatened by the funding fight.

The Harm Reduction Coalition wrote a letter to Senate leaders this week pressing for passage of the bill and raising “concerns” that some of the programs pushed by Democrats do not “achieve sufficient and timely impact to warrant emergency supplemental appropriations outside of regular order.”