Bipartisan senators urge Congress to fund fight to curb opioid crisis

Bipartisan senators urge Congress to fund fight to curb opioid crisis
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of senators is calling on Congress to provide significant funding to battle the opioid epidemic — and quickly.

The nine senators hail from areas the epidemic has hit particularly hard, and are arguing there’s an “urgent need for Congress to provide our states with the resources they need to deal with this public health emergency” in a letter sent Friday to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocratic senator to party: 'A little message discipline wouldn't kill us' House to vote on resolution affirming peaceful transition of power Republican lawyers brush off Trump's election comments MORE (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerPelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' 3 reasons why Biden is misreading the politics of court packing Cruz blocks amended resolution honoring Ginsburg over language about her dying wish MORE (D-N.Y.).

“As the Senate considers pending supplemental and omnibus appropriation legislation, please make every effort to ensure that new, substantial and sustained funding for the opioid epidemic is included in any legislative package,” the senators wrote.

Democratic leaders have been pressing for any larger spending deal to include more funding to combat the crisis killing thousands of Americans each year, but GOP leader have not committed to more funding.

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“We've done a lot, put a lot of resources into combatting opioids already,” the Senate’s No. 3 Republican, John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneHouse to vote on resolution affirming peaceful transition of power Trump dumbfounds GOP with latest unforced error Senate passes resolution reaffirming commitment to peaceful transition of power MORE (S.D.), said last week. “If they've got a proposal, I'm sure we would take a look at it, but I don’t know that that's at least on the agenda at the moment.”

The epidemic has been plaguing both rural and urban areas across the country, leading to the rate of opioid overdose deaths quadrupling since 1999.

In late October, President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal prosecutor speaks out, says Barr 'has brought shame' on Justice Dept. Former Pence aide: White House staffers discussed Trump refusing to leave office Progressive group buys domain name of Trump's No. 1 Supreme Court pick MORE declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency, though the move didn’t free up money nor did it include a specific funding ask to Congress. Democratic lawmakers and some advocates panned the measure as ineffective unless it includes a robust infusion of federal funds.

The senators’ letter noted comments from a Dec. 4 press conference, where Eric Hargan — acting secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services — said the administration is “looking forward to hearing from Congress about how they intend to address this issue.”

“That means it is up to us to act,” the senators wrote.

The senators who signed onto the letter include Democratic Sens. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseySecond GOP senator to quarantine after exposure to coronavirus GAO report finds brokers offered false info on coverage for pre-existing conditions Catholic group launches .7M campaign against Biden targeting swing-state voters MORE Jr. (Pa.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenSenate Democrats introduce bill to sanction Russians over Taliban bounties Trump-backed candidate wins NH GOP Senate primary to take on Shaheen Democratic senator urges Trump to respond to Russian aggression MORE (N.H.), Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanDemocrats step up hardball tactics as Supreme Court fight heats up Congress needs to prioritize government digital service delivery Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic MORE (N.H.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinThe debate over the filibuster entirely misses the point Trump plans to pick Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ginsburg on court Day before Trump refused to commit to peaceful transition, Aaron Sorkin described how he would write election night MORE (W.Va.) and Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinSenators introduce bipartisan bill to mandate digital apps disclose country of origin Keep teachers in the classroom Cher raised million for Biden campaign at LGBTQ-themed fundraiser MORE (Wis.) and Republican Sens. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoCongress must finish work on popular conservation bill before time runs out Second GOP senator to quarantine after exposure to coronavirus GOP senator to quarantine after coronavirus exposure MORE (W.Va.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiDemocratic senator to party: 'A little message discipline wouldn't kill us' Overnight Energy: Trump officials finalize plan to open up protected areas of Tongass to logging | Feds say offshore testing for oil can proceed despite drilling moratorium | Dems question EPA's postponement of inequality training Poll: 57 percent of Americans think next president, Senate should fill Ginsburg vacancy MORE (Alaska) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsDemocratic senator to party: 'A little message discipline wouldn't kill us' Poll: 57 percent of Americans think next president, Senate should fill Ginsburg vacancy On The Trail: Making sense of this week's polling tsunami MORE (Maine), as well as independent Sen. Angus KingAngus KingHopes for DC, Puerto Rico statehood rise Government watchdog recommends creation of White House cyber director position Democrats step up hardball tactics as Supreme Court fight heats up MORE (Maine.)  

At a press briefing Thursday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to specify an amount or a timeline for additional money.

“The amount of money that it will take to combat this crisis is huge. We’re going to continue looking at the best ways to do that,” she said. “We’re working in an interagency process to see what that number looks like.”

When a reporter pressed if the appropriation would come by the end of the year, Sanders said, “I’m not aware that we can promise that a full funding for that would take place by the end of this year. This wasn’t a problem that happened overnight. We’re not going to be able to fix it overnight.”