Week ahead: Senators look to finish opioid bill, revive Flint

The Senate is hoping to finish up its work on a heroin and prescription drug abuse bill this week.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) appears to be on a glide path after Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) confirmed late last week that Democrats wouldn’t block the legislation.

{mosads}”We’re not holding up this bill,” he said at the time. “We’re not going to oppose cloture.”

His comments came after he suggested that Democrats could keep the legislation from getting the 60 votes it will need to move forward if Republicans didn’t agree to give them additional amendment votes.

Reid tried to get votes on 10 Democratic amendments as part of a counteroffer after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to set up amendment votes for Monday. But the Republican leader rejected his proposal, and Reid, in turn, blocked McConnell from setting up the additional amendment votes.

Instead, the Senate will take its first procedural vote aimed at wrapping up the opioid bill at 5:30 p.m. on Monday.

The bipartisan legislation—from Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)—would authorize funding for programs to combat prescription opioid abuse, in addition to increasing the availability of naloxone, a drug to treat overdose.

Getting the legislation cleared the through upper chamber would give McConnell an election-year win and show that the Senate can still function despite a partisan Supreme Court battle.

It would also bolster Portman, who faces a tough reelection bid and has put fighting the opioid epidemic at the center of his campaign.

Flint aid deal

Senators are hoping they’ll be able to revive a long-stalled deal on help to combat the drinking water crisis in Flint, Mich.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers have been negotiating a deal on Flint, as well as a separate larger energy reform bill, for weeks as they tried to resolve final disputes over the package.

But they still have a few hurdles to tackle if they want to try to get the legislation on the floor this week. Senate aides told The Hill late last week that Republican Sens. Mike Lee (Utah) and David Vitter (La.) both have holds on the Flint deal.

Lee suggested that Flint already has the government resources it needs, and accused his colleagues of “political grandstanding.”

“Washington politicians are using the crisis in Flint as an excuse to funnel taxpayer money to their own home states, and trying to sneak it through the Senate without proper debate and amendment. I respectfully object,” he said in a statement Friday.

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) quickly hit back at Lee’s comments, saying that he was “disappointed.”

Meanwhile, Vitter wants to make sure fishing-related provisions he got included in a sportsman’s bill also make it into the energy bill, but said late last week that he’s “quite hopeful” the Senate will be able to move forward soon.

Negotiations on Flint are entwined with a larger bipartisan energy reform bill, after Democrats pledged to block the legislation until they get an agreement on aid for Flint.

The Senate’s deal wouldn’t provide any direct aid to Flint, but instead expand a pair of loan programs to help water contamination problems and grow some health programs.

Tags David Vitter Harry Reid Mike Lee Mitch McConnell Rob Portman Sheldon Whitehouse

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