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 ShaheenJustice indicts two members of ISIS 'Beatles' cell ISIS militants expected to be sent to US for prosecution: report New Hampshire poll finds Biden up 8 points over Trump 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 Brown Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Dems to focus on issues, not character, at Barrett hearings Mnuchin says he and Pelosi have agreed to restart coronavirus stimulus talks 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 McConnellSenate GOP eyes Oct. 26 for confirming Barrett to Supreme Court GOP noncommittal about vote on potential Trump-Pelosi coronavirus deal Overnight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas 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 PortmanGOP blocks Schumer effort to adjourn Senate until after election Candymakers meet virtually with lawmakers for annual fly-in, discuss Halloween safety Democrats look past Election Day in Barrett fight  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 RyanPelosi and Trump go a full year without speaking Jordan vows to back McCarthy as leader even if House loses more GOP seats Barrett declines to say if Trump can pardon himself 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 AyotteThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Senate makes SCOTUS nominee Barrett a proxy for divisive 2020 Senate Republicans scramble to put Trump at arm's length GOP anxiety grows over Trump political roller coaster 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 CruzSenate Republicans offer constitutional amendment to block Supreme Court packing 10 bellwether counties that could signal where the election is headed Conservatives seize on New York Post story to push Section 230 reform MORE (R-Texas), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeTed Cruz won't wear mask to speak to reporters at Capitol Michigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test Barrett fight puts focus on abortion in 2020 election MORE (R-Utah), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillBiden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Harris walks fine line on Barrett as election nears Fox's Bongino, MSNBC's McCaskill trade blows over Trump ride: 'You epic piece of garbage' MORE (D-Mo.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOwners of meatpacker JBS to pay 0M fine over foreign bribery charges Questions raised about conflicts of interest around Biden son-in-law America needs an industrial policy — now more than ever MORE (R-Fla.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Tipping point week for Trump, Biden, Congress, voters Biden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Push to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw MORE (I-Vt.) each missed the vote. Rubio signed on as a co-sponsor to the legislation a day before the New Hampshire primary.