Overnight Healthcare: Senate to vote on drug abuse bill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is setting up a vote on legislation aimed at tackling drug addiction that has earned rare bipartisan support on Capitol Hill.

The vote will be the culmination of weeks but slow but steady progress on bills to fight opioid addiction, which have attracted attention from top government leaders from McConnell to President Obama over the last several weeks.

McConnell's move means the Senate will take a first vote early next week, unless senators can get an agreement to skip over procedural hurdles. 

While the bill has been in the works since before the recent Supreme Court nominee drama, some Democrats see the upcoming vote as the GOP's attempt to find a distraction.

"Obviously they're trying to change the subject," one Democratic leadership aide said. Democratic leaders have not said they would hold up legislation because of the GOP's Supreme Court position, but they have vowed to keep up the pressure during the key election year. "Just because they're doing this on the floor doesn't mean that people aren't going to pay attention to the Supreme Court [fight]."

Both parties insist that the bill will pass with support from both parties, and no senators have said they will oppose the legislation. But several Democrats, led by Sens. Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Finance: Trump signs repeal of auto-loan policy | Justices uphold contracts that bar employee class-action suits | US, China trade war 'on hold' Free traders applaud Trump as China tariff threat recedes The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Frenzy over Kennedy retirement rumors | Trump challenges DOJ MORE (Ill.) and Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) have pressed for $600 million in emergency funding to tackle the opioid epidemic.

"This commitment should also be matched with desperately needed emergency funding for our first responders and treatment providers," Sheehan said in a statement Thursday. Neither Sheehan nor Schumer has said they would reject the package if it doesn't include the funding. Read more here: http://bit.ly/1oKYBP1

OBAMACARE REPLACEMENT TEAM HAS A MISSION STATEMENT: The four GOP chairman charged with coming up with a replacement plan for ObamaCare offered a glance at their goals for this year.

The leaders of the House Budget, Ways and Means, Education and Workforce, and Energy and Commerce committees released a six-paragraph mission statement, which uses bullet points to outline 10 "key principles."

The group, along with some rank-and-file members from those committees, met Thursday in their ever-difficult task of finding ways to replace the Affordable Care Act. Many Republicans have said they don't expect a healthcare plan to come out until after the 2016 election – six years after the law was passed.

CRUZ THREATENS FLINT DEAL: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is among a group of lawmakers putting a hold on a deal to provide aid for Flint, Mich., which has been a major priority for Democrats.

Negotiators this week reached an agreement on a $250 million package that would aid Flint, which is suffering a severe water quality crisis, and other parts of the country with contaminated drinking water. The bulk of the package, $200 million, would go to expand and finance a pair of loan programs to help states and localities improve drinking water infrastructure.

The deal is tied to a major energy bill, which stalled in the Senate earlier this month when lawmakers were unable to agree on Flint aid. Read more here. http://bit.ly/1p9PN53

CLINTON NABS MILLION-DOLLAR AD BUY FROM PLANNED PARENTHOOD: Planned Parenthood's political arm is unfurling a multi-platform, seven-figure ad buy in support of Democratic primary front-runner Hillary Clinton.

The ads will target Michigan, Texas and Virginia ahead of their early March primaries.

Planned Parenthood, which remains under attack in Congress and GOP state legislatures, has given Clinton its first-ever endorsement for 2016. Read more here. http://bit.ly/24rZtrS

OBAMA SEES 'PROMISING PATHWAY' TO FIGHT ZIKA: President Obama on Thursday expressed confidence about the nation's ability to beat the Zika virus, striking a more optimistic tone than some of his own federal researchers.

"We actually think there's a promising pathway for diagnostics and vaccines on this," Obama said in a packed White House auditorium. "It's not a real complicated virus, apparently."

Obama's optimistic remarks about understanding the science behind the Zika virus contrast with the more cautious language used by most officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In multiple appearances on Capitol Hill over the last two weeks, top Center for Disease Control officials have described an aggressive effort to catch-up with the murky science of the virus. Read more here: http://bit.ly/1VHRrFp

THE NEVER-ENDING 'WASHINGTON EXEMPTION' SAGA: Alternatively described as the Senate's never-ending nominee-blocking saga. Sen. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterPlanned Parenthood targets judicial nominee over abortion comments Trump nominates wife of ex-Louisiana senator to be federal judge Where is due process in all the sexual harassment allegations? MORE (R-La.) is in his final year in office, but he isn't giving up the fight against the so-called "ObamaCare exemption" that he says keeps members of Congress from the most hurtful parts of the law.

Vitter said Thursday he plans to block the nomination of Beth Cobert to lead the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).


Fight for healthcare co-op funds looms (Wall Street Journal)

HealthNet says quarterly membership in Obamacare plans declined (Reuters)

Zika exposes class differences in Brazil, where most victims are poor (Washington Post)

Airlines say Zika may already be impacting travel (Reuters)


Massachusetts governor growing frustrated with lack of movement on opioid bill (WBUR)

Delaware Medicaid budget reports $28M shortfall (Delaware Online)

Oklahoma Supreme Court reverses abortion ruling (The Oklahoman)


McConnell moving forward with drug abuse bill http://bit.ly/1OynB0m

Senate approves Obama's FDA nominee http://bit.ly/1VHOHrB

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