Senate GOP blocks emergency funding for opioid epidemic
© Greg Nash

Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic push to add $600 million in emergency funding to an otherwise bipartisan opioid abuse bill Wednesday. 

Republican Sens. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteElection Countdown: O'Rourke brings in massive M haul | Deal on judges lets senators return to the trail | Hurricane puts Florida candidates in the spotlight | Adelson spending big to save GOP in midterms GOP mulls having outside counsel question Kavanaugh, Ford Pallbearers, speakers announced for McCain's DC memorial service and Capitol ceremony MORE (N.H.), Mark KirkMark Steven KirkDems vow swift action on gun reform next year This week: Trump heads to Capitol Hill Trump attending Senate GOP lunch Tuesday MORE (Ill.) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanDrug company to offer cheaper opioid overdose treatment after hiking price 600 percent The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — Congress to act soon to avoid shutdown On The Money: Trump touts China actions day after stock slide | China 'confident' on new trade deal | GM chief meets lawmakers to calm anger over cuts | Huawei CFO arrested MORE (Ohio), who are facing tough reelection bids, as well as Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate votes to overturn IRS guidance limiting donor disclosure Trump attorney general pick a prolific donor to GOP candidates, groups: report Lobbying World MORE (Maine) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP-controlled Senate breaks with Trump on Saudi vote Senators prepare for possibility of Christmas in Washington during a shutdown Dem senator: Trump 'seems more rattled than usual' MORE (S.C.), broke rank and supported it. 
Democrats argue the money is needed to get help quickly to communities ravaged by prescription drug and heroin addiction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last month that overdose deaths reached an all-time high in 2014. 
"Passing [the opioid bill] without any funding is like offering a life preserver to people who are drowning and not putting air in that life preserver," Shaheen said ahead of the vote. 
While they've pushed for weeks to get the funding included in the opioid bill, key Democrats suggested that the caucus would still support the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), even if it weren't included. 
Republicans, however, argue that there are potentially hundreds of millions available for CARA as part of the omnibus spending bill passed late last year. 
He added that lawmakers should not let the opioid bill "get tangled in politics."
The bill — from Portman and Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDems ask if Trump aide Bill Shine is breaking ethics laws Senators want assurances from attorney general pick on fate of Mueller probe Dems vs. Trump: Breaking down the lawsuits against Whitaker MORE (D-R.I.) — authorizes but doesn't appropriate funding for programs to combat prescription drug and heroin abuse in addition to increasing the availability of naloxone, a drug to treat overdose.
Democrats, however, have voiced skepticism about the GOP's argument suggesting that the omnibus money was meant for other programs and not CARA.
"That would indeed have been an astonishing, indeed truly magical, feat of prediction," Whitehouse said. "What kind of wizards do we think our appropriators must have been eight months ago?" 
The Rhode Island Democrat added that when senators started work on spending bills last year, CARA had yet to receive a hearing in the Judiciary Committee. 
Republicans were under pressure from outside groups to block Shaheen's amendment. 
Heritage Action for America sent out a "key vote" notice shortly before the vote, adding that "demanding that Congress provide $600 million in emergency funding outside of the budget caps to address opioid abuse is either fiscally unserious, cynical political opportunism, or both."
Referring to pressure from conservative groups, Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSenators prepare for possibility of Christmas in Washington during a shutdown Mania at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Trump, Democratic leaders go toe-to-toe at White House MORE (D-N.Y.) slammed Republicans, saying, "When it comes time to put their money where their mouth is and provide resources to those on the front lines, the far right grabs the reins and Republicans are left merely paying lip service to these critical problems." 
The vote on the amendment comes after senators had spent hours on the Senate floor over the past week giving, at times emotional, speeches about the impact of drug addiction back in their home states.