Top Oversight Dem pushes for White House opioid briefing

Top Oversight Dem pushes for White House opioid briefing
© Moriah Ratner

The top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is calling for the White House to brief the panel on its efforts to implement recommendations from the president's opioid commission.

Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene Cummings5 things to watch as Trump, Dems clash over investigations Republicans defend drug company in spotlight over HIV medication prices Advocate praises Warren's opioid proposal: 'The scale of the plan is absolutely right' MORE (D-Md.) wrote a letter to Oversight Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyHouse Dem calls on lawmakers to 'insulate' election process following Mueller report Democrats put harassment allegations against Trump on back burner Democrats seize on Mueller-Barr friction MORE (R-S.C.) on Friday urging him to request the briefing from presidential counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayDem criticizes newest calendars for Trump Interior chief as 'fake' Bush economics director says psychiatrists labeled Trump 'total narcissist' Hatch Act complaints jumped nearly 30 percent Trump's first year in office: report MORE, who has helmed the White House's efforts to combat the opioid epidemic.

“I understand that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons' Rocket attack hits Baghdad's Green Zone amid escalating tensions: reports Buttigieg on Trump tweets: 'I don't care' MORE has designated Kellyanne Conway as his point person on this issue, so her input would help the Committee with its ongoing efforts to evaluate the status of the Commission’s recommendations,” Cummings wrote.

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Cummings expressed frustration at a prior effort to request a briefing from the White House, alleging that Gowdy’s staff declined to help make the request. Cummings also claimed that Gowdy requested a briefing from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) but that the letter was sent without asking Cummings to join.

Though committee staff from both parties met with ONDCP earlier this week, Cummings wrote that it was vital to also secure a briefing with the administration to hear about its efforts to implement the opioid commission's nearly 60 recommendations on how to combat the epidemic plaguing the U.S. Those recommendations were issued on Nov. 1.

“One problem with speaking only with ONDCP is that President Trump and his top advisors have been trying to decimate ONDCP since the first days of his Administration,” Cummings noted.

A spokesperson for Gowdy did not immediately return a request for comment.

The Office of Management and Budget was weighing proposing to nearly eliminate ONDCP in the president’s budget last year. The plan wasn’t ultimately included, as it received backlash from lawmakers and advocates.

This year, the president’s budget released Monday proposes major changes to ONDCP — moving two of its main grant programs out of the office and into other departments.

Additional news reports have suggested a lack of senior leadership at ONDCP, Cummings wrote. The White House appointed an acting director last week.