House's opioid response will not include new funding, aide says

House's opioid response will not include new funding, aide says
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House Republican leaders are not planning to include new funding in their legislative response to the national opioid epidemic, a leadership aide confirmed to The Hill on Wednesday.

The lack of funding for the long-awaited package is likely to set off a major battle with House Democrats, who have demanded millions of additional dollars for initiatives like prescription drug monitoring and doctor education programs.

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Republican leaders, however, say they have already done their part by approving $6 million in opioid programs in last year’s omnibus spending bill.  

“We’ve already done the funding side of this,” said Mike Long, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

Long said the final decisions on how to use existing opioid funding will be decided by committee leaders.

"The authorizing language is being worked out by the committees."

House leaders are planning to move as many as eight bills aimed at the opioid crisis to the floor the first week of May, according to a second leadership aide.

Four committees will largely determine the content of the legislation: Energy and Commerce; Judiciary; Education and Workforce; and Veteran Affairs. Each panel is expected to complete markups by the time the House leaves town next Friday.

A group of those committee chairmen, joined by McCarthy and House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), met last Friday to set the timeline and discuss details. 

The battle over funding in the House mirrors what took place in the Senate last month, when lawmakers faced off over a bipartisan bill called the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.

As the bill moved closer to a vote on the Senate floor, a group that included Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSenators prepare for possibility of Christmas in Washington during a shutdown Mania at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Trump, Democratic leaders go toe-to-toe at White House MORE (D-N.Y.) threatened to oppose the package if GOP leaders did not include $600 million in emergency funding.

Ultimately, the bill passed, 94-1, without the additional funding.

Republican leaders in the House say they hope to conference their bill with the Senate’s version this summer, and McCarthy has already spoken with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP-controlled Senate breaks with Trump on Saudi vote Overnight Defense: Senate moves toward vote on bill ending support for Saudi war | House GOP blocks Yemen war votes for rest of year | Trump throws uncertainty into Pentagon budget | Key Dem to leave transgender troop ban to courts Senate moves toward vote on ending support for Saudi-led war MORE (R-Ky.) about doing so. 

Still, GOP leaders in the House could face a backlash from some of their own members over the lack of funding in the bill.

Some Republicans whose districts have been hit hard by prescription drug abuse are urging aggressive action. Rep. Frank Guinta (R-N.H.), for example, has been pressuring House leaders to devote more funding to what he calls his “No. 1 issue.” 

Guinta, who co-leads the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic, said Tuesday the House’s opioid bill would be “a stronger, better, more funded bill” than the one that passed the Senate in March.

A spokesman for Guinta said Wednesday that he still plans to push for funding for programs like prescription drug monitoring as part of the upcoming year’s appropriations process.

Guinta faces a tough reelection race this fall.

— This story was updated at 7:39 p.m.