McConnell moving forward with drug abuse bill

McConnell moving forward with drug abuse bill
© Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate passes 0B defense bill Overnight Health Care: New GOP ObamaCare repeal bill gains momentum Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea 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 ShaheenWeek ahead: Crunch time for defense bill’s cyber reforms | Equifax under scrutiny Five things to know about the Kaspersky-Russia controversy DHS bans Kaspersky software in federal agencies MORE (D-N.H.) to add $600 million in emergency appropriations. 

Election-year politics are also playing in; Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanWeek ahead in tech: Debate over online sex trafficking bill heats up 'Hillbilly Elegy' author won't run for Senate Brown, Portman urge Trump administration to move quickly on a steel decision 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. Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill This week: Senate wrapping up defense bill after amendment fight Cuomo warns Dems against cutting DACA deal with Trump 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 ReidThe Memo: Trump pulls off a stone-cold stunner The Memo: Ending DACA a risky move for Trump Manchin pressed from both sides in reelection fight 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.”