© Greg Nash/The Hill
Legislation addressing opioid addiction is essentially useless as long as Republicans refuse to provide new funding, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) warned Thursday.
Pelosi characterized the opioid proposals, which GOP leaders are pushing through the House this week, as "good bipartisan" bills.
"However," she was quick to add, "Republicans are refusing to provide the emergency funding that is needed to make the difference. Just to have the statements is interesting — it's conversational — but it's not effective without the resources."
The comments highlight the difficulties policymakers face as they try to address a series of crises — including the opioid epidemic, the Zika virus and the Flint, Mich., water contamination — in a Capitol defined by partisan disagreement.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say they want to take steps to tackle those problems, but GOP leaders controlling both chambers have been reluctant to allocate new funds amid an election season, when voters are paying strict attention to government spending.
Behind House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanJuan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' Cheney allies flock to her defense against Trump challenge MORE (R-Wis.), GOP leaders are moving 18 bills this week to address opioid and heroin addiction, an ever-growing crisis that killed more than 28,000 people in the U.S. in 2014 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The package includes bills to protect first responders from criminal or civil liability when they treat overdose victims; grant law enforcement officials new powers to fight chemical trafficking and international drug manufacturing; and create a task force charged with drafting national guidelines for doctors prescribing opioids.
Ryan on Thursday noted that drug overdoses have surpassed car accidents in killing Americans, and he urged Congress to move quickly to get the package to President Obama's desk.
"One reason we call this an epidemic is because it cuts across all demographics. It affects families everywhere in America," Ryan told reporters in the Capitol.
"I am very proud of the Republicans and Democrats that have come together to address this situation because this really is about people's lives. It is about whole communities that are being torn apart. And I believe we can win this fight — and we must."
Ryan, whose meeting Thursday with Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE captivated Capitol Hill, has been arguing all week that the opioid bills are the much bigger story than the political tensions between the presumptive GOP presidential nominee and the Speaker who's refused to endorse him.
"You should know that Thursday's Ryan/Trump meeting is not the most important thing happening in DC this week,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong sent in an unusual email to reporters Tuesday.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said this week that Ryan would have more luck with that argument if the package of opioid bills came with more funding.
“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 said Wednesday. “But, unfortunately, that’s not the option that Republicans have chosen.”
Obama had proposed $1.1 billion to fight opioid abuse in his last budget — a document the Republicans refused to consider — and the Democrats have been quick to highlight the funding discrepancy between the parties.
Pelosi on Thursday hammered the Republicans for blocking a Democratic amendment the day before that would have provided $600 million to fight the opioid epidemic.
"The Republicans are refusing to provide the emergency funding that is needed to make a real difference in American communities facing the opioid tragedy; 78 Americans die of an opioid overdose every day," Pelosi said.
"Our members, Democrats and Republicans, see this in their communities. That's why they're passing these nice bills. But it's hard to understand why they're not putting the resources of poor communities to deal with it."