OPIOID SERIES:

McConnell moving forward with drug abuse bill

McConnell moving forward with drug abuse bill
© Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRepublicans divided over legislation protecting Mueller The Hill's Morning Report: Inside the Comey memos Democrats mull audacious play to block Pompeo 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. 

ADVERTISEMENT
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 ShaheenSenators pledge to pursue sanctions against Turkey over imprisoned American pastor Dems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination Menendez rips characterization of Pompeo as 'nation's top diplomat' MORE (D-N.H.) to add $600 million in emergency appropriations. 

Election-year politics are also playing in; Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanTax rules will be subject to more OMB review under new memo Ending sex trafficking tomorrow requires preventing child abuse today Doctors bristle at push for opioid prescription limits 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 SchumerThrowing some cold water on all of the Korean summit optimism House Republicans push Mulvaney, Trump to rescind Gateway funds Congress should build on the momentum from 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 Mason ReidDems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination The Memo: Teens rankle the right with gun activism Dems to party: Go on offense with Trump’s alleged affairs 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.”