Senate GOP plots next steps on opioid 'epidemic'
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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.
 
"We had a significant discussion for quite a period of time in the Republican conference today on the opioid-heroin epidemic that's sweeping the country," Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTurkey sanctions face possible wall in GOP Senate Fox's Wallace says 'well-connected' Republican told him there's a 20 percent chance GOP will vote for impeachment White House staggers after tumultuous 48 hours MORE (R-Ky.) told reporters.
 
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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 fears Trump backlash in suburbs Trump makes rare trip to Clinton state, hoping to win back New Hampshire Key endorsements: A who's who in early states MORE (N.H.) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Pence says Turkey agrees to ceasefire | Senators vow to move forward with Turkey sanctions | Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe On The Money: Senate fails to override Trump veto over border emergency | Trump resort to host G-7 next year | Senators to push Turkey sanctions despite ceasefire | McConnell tees up funding votes Senate fails to override Trump veto over emergency declaration 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."