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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 McConnellMnuchin says he learned of Pelosi's letter to him about stimulus talks 'in the press' On The Money: Trump makes a late pitch on the economy | US economy records record GDP gains after historic COVID-19 drop | Pelosi eyes big COVID-19 deal in lame duck Lawmakers say infrastructure efforts are falling victim to deepening partisan divide MORE (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHouse Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Graham dismisses criticism from Fox Business's Lou Dobbs Lewandowski: Trump 'wants to see every Republican reelected regardless of ... if they break with the president' 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 ThuneBiden to campaign in Minnesota as GOP ups pressure in 'sleeper' state GOP sees path to hold Senate majority Ensuring more Americans have access to 5G technology 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 TrumpBiden campaign slams Facebook after thousands of ads blocked by platform's pre-election blackout Mnuchin says he learned of Pelosi's letter to him about stimulus talks 'in the press' Harris to travel to Texas Friday after polls show tie between Trump, Biden 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 CaseySenate Democrats hold talkathon to protest Barrett's Supreme Court nomination Two Loeffler staffers test positive for COVID-19 Healthcare, retirement security seen as top issues for older voters, lawmakers say MORE Jr. (Pa.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenTrump makes rare campaign stops in New England in closing stretch GOP coronavirus bill blocked as deal remains elusive Justice indicts two members of ISIS 'Beatles' cell MORE (N.H.), Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanOvernight Defense: Trump campaign's use of military helicopter raises ethics concerns | Air Force jets intercept aircraft over Trump rally | Senators introduce bill to expand visa screenings Senators introduce bipartisan bill to expand screening of foreign visitors GOP coronavirus bill blocked as deal remains elusive MORE (N.H.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinBitter fight over Barrett fuels calls to nix filibuster, expand court Democratic Senate emerges as possible hurdle for progressives  Susan Collins and the American legacy MORE (W.Va.) and Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinInfrastructure, energy investments urgently needed to create U.S. jobs Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Baldwin calls for Senate hearing on CDC response to meatpacking plant coronavirus outbreak MORE (Wis.) and Republican Sens. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoTech CEOs clash with lawmakers in contentious hearing GOP power shift emerges with Trump, McConnell Bill to expand support for community addiction treatment passes House MORE (W.Va.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiAlaska Senate race sees cash surge in final stretch Bitter fight over Barrett fuels calls to nix filibuster, expand court The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Justice Barrett joins court; one week until Election Day MORE (Alaska) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSusan Collins says systemic racism isn't 'a problem' in Maine Biden, Cunningham hold narrow leads in North Carolina: poll GOP sees path to hold Senate majority MORE (Maine), as well as independent Sen. Angus KingAngus KingAlaska Senate race sees cash surge in final stretch Bitter fight over Barrett fuels calls to nix filibuster, expand court Ocasio-Cortez: Republicans don't believe Democrats 'have the stones to play hardball' 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.”