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. 

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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 ShaheenCosmetic chemicals need a makeover How Biden can get the infrastructure bill through Congress Pelosi: 'No intention' of abandoning Democrats' infrastructure goals 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 BrownBiden moves to undo Trump trade legacy with EU deal How Biden can get the infrastructure bill through Congress Democrats reintroduce bill to create 'millionaires surtax' 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 McConnellOn The Money: Schumer to trigger reconciliation process on Wednesday | Four states emerge as test case for cutting off jobless benefits GOP senator: I want to make Biden a 'one-half-term president' McConnell presses for 'actual consequences' in disclosure of tax data 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 PortmanHillicon Valley: Big Tech critic Lina Khan named chair of the FTC | Lawmakers urge Biden to be tough on cyber during summit with Putin | TSA working on additional security regulations following Colonial Pipeline hack Senators introducing B bill to help narrow digital divide How Biden can get the infrastructure bill through Congress 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 RyanZaid Jilani: Paul Ryan worried about culture war distracting from issues 'that really concern him' The Memo: Marjorie Taylor Greene exposes GOP establishment's lack of power The Hill's 12:30 Report - Senators back in session after late-night hold-up 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 AyotteSununu seen as top recruit in GOP bid to reclaim Senate Lobbying world Overnight Defense: NATO expanding troops in Iraq 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 CruzOvernight Defense: Top admiral shoots back at criticism of 'woke' military | Military guns go missing | New White House strategy to battle domestic extremism Top admiral shoots back at criticism of 'woke' military: 'We are not weak' Biden tries to erase Trump's 'America First' on world stage MORE (R-Texas), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeBig Tech critic Lina Khan named chair of the FTC GOP senators press Justice Department to compare protest arrests to Capitol riot Matt Stoller says cheerleading industry shows why antitrust laws are 'insufficient' MORE (R-Utah), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Jan. 6 commission vote delayed; infrastructure debate lingers into June Missouri Republicans move to block Greitens in key Senate race Democratic Kansas City, Mo., mayor eyes Senate run MORE (D-Mo.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioPast criticism of Trump becomes potent weapon in GOP primaries Lawmakers urge Biden to be tough on cybersecurity during summit with Putin Five years after the Pulse nightclub massacre the fight for LGBTQ+ rights continues MORE (R-Fla.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersProgressives rave over Harrison's start at DNC Zombie Tax punishes farmers to fill DC coffers Progressives threaten to block bipartisan infrastructure proposal MORE (I-Vt.) each missed the vote. Rubio signed on as a co-sponsor to the legislation a day before the New Hampshire primary.