Senate passes opioid abuse bill

The Senate overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan opioid abuse bill Thursday, despite Democratic concerns about a lack of funding tied to the legislation.  

Senators voted 94-1 on the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, or CARA. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) voted against it, saying he wasn't sure fighting addition was best addressed by the federal government. 


Democrats took to the Senate floor ahead of the vote to express their disappointment that most Republicans had rejected an amendment from Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenGOP reasserts NATO support after report on Trump’s wavering Some Senate Dems see Ocasio-Cortez as weak spokeswoman for party The Hill's Morning Report — Trump eyes wall money options as shutdown hits 21 days MORE (D-N.H.) to include $600 million in emergency funding. 

They argue the amendment was needed to make sure money gets quickly to communities ravaged by the drug epidemic. 

Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSen. Casey says he won't run for president in 2020 The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Day 27 of the shutdown | Cohen reportedly paid company to rig online polls, boost his own image | Atlantic publishes ‘Impeach Donald Trump’ cover story Not your ‘grandfather’s’ campaign: 2020 Dems look to stand out in crowded race MORE (D-Ohio), who supported the legislation, slammed Republicans, saying, "They want to do things on the cheap, they want to pass things to pat ourselves on the back." 

Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTSA agents protest government shutdown at Pittsburgh airport The case for Russia sanctions Pompeo planning to meet with Pat Roberts amid 2020 Senate speculation MORE (Ky.), argue there's approximately $400 million included in last year's omnibus spending bill that could be directed to CARA. 

The legislation — from Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSenators look for possible way to end shutdown GOP reasserts NATO support after report on Trump’s wavering Leaders nix recess with no shutdown deal in sight MORE (R-Ohio) and Whitehouse, authorizes but doesn't appropriate funding for programs to combat prescription opioid abuse, in addition to increasing the availability of naloxone, a drug to treat overdose.

While House lawmakers have introduced their own bills, Portman suggested Thursday he was hopeful they would be able to avoid a conference committee. 

Portman said he'd left a voicemail and sent a text message to discuss the issue with Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAEI names Robert Doar as new president GOP can't excommunicate King and ignore Trump playing to white supremacy and racism House vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King MORE (R-Wis.)

"I think there's strong interest in the House of moving this legislation," he added. "I think we have a very good prospect of getting this done."

An identical version of the Senate's bill in the House has 92 co-sponsors. 

Despite the funding fight, lawmakers heaped praise on the legislation for weeks, arguing that it's a necessary step after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that overdose deaths reached an all-time high in 2014.  

During a weekly press conference where he was peppered with questions about the budget and the 2016 presidential race, McConnell quickly noted that "at the risk of sounding like I'm lecturing all of you, just because something passes overwhelmingly doesn't mean it wasn't important." 

The legislation gives the Republican leader an election-year win as he looks to prove the Senate can still govern amid a deeply partisan fight over President Obama's forthcoming Supreme Court pick. 

It also marks a boon for blue-state Republicans, including Portman, who have put combating the opioid epidemic at the center of their reelection campaigns as they seek to put space between their elections and a divisive presidential battle. 

McConnell gave a shoutout to Portman and Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteFive possible successors to Mattis Mattis resigns, says views aren't in line with Trump's Election 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 MORE (R-N.H.) on the Senate floor Thursday morning, saying the New Hampshire Republican "cares deeply about this issue and has studied the problem carefully." 

Democrats have targeted Portman and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), suggesting they are touting CARA while brushing over mixed voting records on opioid abuse funding. 

Both of the senators voted against a spending bill late last year that included extra funding to help combat opioid abuse, though their opposition was unrelated to the funding for the drug overdose crisis. 

Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGroup aiming to draft Beto O’Rourke unveils first 2020 video Howard Dean looking for a 'younger, newer' Democratic nominee in 2020 Congress can stop the war on science MORE (R-Texas), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeHillicon Valley: Trump AG pick signals new scrutiny on tech giants | Wireless providers in new privacy storm | SEC brings charges in agency hack | Facebook to invest 0M in local news AG pick Barr wants closer scrutiny of Silicon Valley 'behemoths' Grassroots political participation is under attack in Utah and GOP is fighting back MORE (R-Utah), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Trump AG pick Barr grilled at hearing | Judge rules against census citizenship question | McConnell blocks second House bill to reopen government Ex-Sen. McCaskill joins NBC, MSNBC Some Senate Dems see Ocasio-Cortez as weak spokeswoman for party MORE (D-Mo.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense: Second Trump-Kim summit planned for next month | Pelosi accuses Trump of leaking Afghanistan trip plans | Pentagon warns of climate threat to bases | Trump faces pressure to reconsider Syria exit Pressure mounts for Trump to reconsider Syria withdrawal Senate Republicans eye rules change to speed Trump nominees MORE (R-Fla.) and Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersKamala Harris picks Baltimore as headquarters for potential 2020 campaign: report Sen. Casey says he won't run for president in 2020 Women's March plans 'Medicare for All' day of lobbying in DC MORE (I-Vt.) each missed the vote. Rubio signed on as a co-sponsor to the legislation a day before the New Hampshire primary.