Senate GOP plots next steps on opioid 'epidemic'
© Getty Images
The Senate's Republican leadership is eyeing a path forward to tackle drug addiction as the issue comes under increasing scrutiny in the 2016 election.
 
 
ADVERTISEMENT
McConnell added that senators are "anxious" to see what legislation comes out of the Judiciary Committee and that he's hopeful lawmakers will be able to get legislation passed this year despite a shortened schedule. 
 
The discussion came after Republican Sens. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteGOP mulls having outside counsel question Kavanaugh, Ford Pallbearers, speakers announced for McCain's DC memorial service and Capitol ceremony Tributes pour in for John McCain MORE (N.H.) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGraham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' Overnight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan group wants to lift Medicaid restriction on substance abuse treatment MORE (Ohio), who are both facing tough reelection battles in blue-leaning states, as well as Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), testified before the committee on Wednesday morning. 
 
 
The moves in Congress could give Portman and Ayotte a local issue to focus on as they fight to keep their seats, providing distance from the divided presidential field.
 
Cornyn added that Ayotte and Portman appeared before their colleagues because of the "ongoing pandemic really occurring in their states and other parts of the country" on prescription drug and heroin abuse.
 
Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) quickly pushed back on McConnell's comments, suggesting it would be a "shame" if lawmakers waited until the end of the year to try to pass legislation. 
 
"We shouldn't have a target for the end of the year. We should have a target as soon as possible," he told reporters. 
 
While Cornyn linked drug addiction to mental health by saying that the criminal justice system isn't "well suited" to handle either, he cautioned against tying the opioid push to his mental health legislation. 
 
"I'm not sure to what extent that makes sense," he told reporters. "You don't want to necessairly burden a piece of legislation with a lot of other provisions that are going to bog it down."