White House rips House GOP's opioid package

White House rips House GOP's opioid package
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The White House on Wednesday blasted a lack of new funding in Republican legislation in the House to address the national opioid addiction crisis.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest did not say whether President Obama would refuse to sign the bills. But he dismissed the measures, saying they lack “substance.”

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He noted that Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanThe Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck Ocasio-Cortez calls out Steve King, Liz Cheney amid controversy over concentration camp remarks Democrats talk up tax credits to counter Trump law MORE’s (R-Wis.) office has complained that the series of 18 bills has not received widespread attention because of the raucous Republican presidential primary.

“My observation would be: If there were actually some substance behind this legislative effort, it might get some more deserved attention,” Earnest said.

“If there were actually funding in here to support more access to treatment and more evidence-based treatment options for people across the country, I suspect it would be more worthy of public attention,” he added. “But, unfortunately, that’s not the option that Republicans have chosen.”

The Obama administration and Democrats have long complained about the lack of new funding in the bills, but their criticism took on new importance when the House this week passed three bills designed to curb opioid addiction.

All but one House lawmaker voted to approve a bipartisan bill calling for a new five-year study into federal grants for preventing opioid abuse. Two other measures passed by voice vote on Tuesday.

After all the bills pass, they will be merged into a final package as soon as next week. The Senate has passed its own legislation, which will be combined with the House measure and sent to Obama's desk this summer.

But Earnest's comments indicate funding levels will remain a concern throughout the debate.

Ryan spokesman Doug Andres called the White House’s criticism unwarranted.

Andres said the legislative package ranges from “addressing opioid addiction among our veterans, to babies infected with this disease, to pain management best practices, and much more.”

“For the White House to belittle months of work to save lives is just wrong,” he said in a statement.

Earnest noted Obama proposed $1.1 billion in new funding to combat opioid addiction in his last budget, which Republican lawmakers refused to consider. Almost all of the money would have expanded access to medication-based treatment for opioid addicts.

The spokesman framed the GOP bills as an election-year stunt.

“Republicans paying lip service to an issue they know is important to voters without actually doing something substantive to address it — and in fact actively blocking Obama administration's efforts to address it — is kind of an old story," Earnest said.

"But it’s the reputation that Republicans have embraced for seven years now," he added. "It’s a reputation they have demonstrated is well earned.”

— This report was updated at 3:44 p.m.