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The Senate on Thursday took a step toward bridging the gap with the House on legislation intended to combat the opioid epidemic. 

The upper chamber voted 95-1 to set up a conference committee with the House that will seek to iron out the differences between the chambers’ bills. Only Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) voted no. 

{mosads}Opioid legislation is seen as one of the few areas where a bipartisan bill could be signed into law this year, given the breadth of the addiction problem and the fact that many vulnerable lawmakers have talked about the issue in their campaigns. 

The Senate’s version of the legislation, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), would authorize grants for educational programs, the anti-overdose drug naloxone, programs to monitor prescribing practices and other initiatives against the abuse of heroin and prescription opioid painkillers. 

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a lead sponsor of CARA who is facing a difficult reelection race, called the vote Thursday a “big step.” He is pushing for it to be signed into law as soon as possible.  

Democrats have called CARA a good first step but have also called for more funding to fight the epidemic. In March, all but five Republicans voted down a Democratic amendment from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) to add in $600 million in emergency funding to fight opioids. 

However, on Thursday, the Senate adopted a measure from Shaheen to instruct the conference committee to include funding in its final product, though it did not specify the amount. The measure was approved 66-29, with 24 Republicans voting in favor. 

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a member of the conference committee, said in a statement that she is “pleased” that both parties agree there is an opioid crisis but added that “efforts will fall short without additional investments.”

Tags Jeanne Shaheen Mike Lee Patty Murray Rob Portman
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