White House makes last-ditch plea for opioid funding

White House makes last-ditch plea for opioid funding
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The Obama administration is pressing GOP leaders to devote more funding to the fight against addiction before Congress sends its major opioids bill to the president’s desk this summer.

The head of the White House’s drug policy office, Michael Botticelli, joined Management and Budget Director Shaun DonovanShaun L. S. DonovanHouse Dems call on OMB to analyze Senate budget plan Overnight Finance: Dems turn up heat on Wells Fargo | New rules for prepaid cards | Justices dig into insider trading law GOP reps warn Obama against quickly finalizing tax rules MORE in a call to action Friday to approve a fully funded opioids bill — an approach that was backed by a majority of senators on the floor this week.


“Congress has been voting on various pieces of legislation related to the opioid epidemic, but so far has not provided the resources needed to make treatment available to everyone who wants it,” Botticelli and Donovan wrote in a blog post published Friday afternoon.

The message from the White House came one day after the Senate voted to begin talks with the House to merge the two, mostly bipartisan opioid bills.

The same day, a majority of the Senate, 66 lawmakers, voted to support an earlier version of the bill that included funding. That move helps ensure that the issue of funding remains part of negotiations even though most of the Republicans appointed to the conference committee don’t agree with it.

Among the five Senate Republicans put on the committee, three — including the No. 2-ranking senator, John CornynJohn CornynFive questions about the next COVID-19 relief package Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers demand answers on Chinese COVID hacks | Biden re-ups criticism of Amazon | House Dem bill seeks to limit microtargeting Lawmakers ask for briefings on Chinese targeting of coronavirus research MORE (Texas) — said they’d oppose funding in the bill.

From the start, Democrats — as well as some vulnerable GOP senators such as Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanCongress headed toward unemployment showdown McConnell gives two vulnerable senators a boost with vote on outdoor recreation bill Fight emerges over unemployment benefits in next relief bill MORE (Ohio) — have demanded more funding to help local health officials deal with a mounting death toll from opioid overdoses.

Most Republicans, however, have argued that more money wouldn’t solve the problem until more is known about how best to fight the epidemic. Several pieces of the GOP bills call for more studies into “best practices” nationwide.

House and Senate GOP leaders have touted their efforts on opioids as a top priority ahead of the fall general election, though the intraparty spat over funding has stalled the bills for months.

Several vulnerable GOP lawmakers joined the Democrats in calling for funding, including Sens. Portman, Mark KirkMark Steven KirkOn the Trail: Senate GOP hopefuls tie themselves to Trump Biden campaign releases video to explain 'what really happened in Ukraine' Why Republicans are afraid to call a key witness in the impeachment inquiry MORE (Ill.), Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteBottom line Bottom Line Lobbying World MORE (N.H.).

The list also included several Republicans from states hit harder by the opioid crisis, such as Iowa, West Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia.

The five Republicans on the committee are Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill State Department scrutiny threatens Pompeo's political ambitions Senators offer bill to prevent relief payments from being seized by private debt collectors MORE (Iowa), Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderSenators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day McConnell gives two vulnerable senators a boost with vote on outdoor recreation bill Five unanswered questions on COVID-19 and the 2020 election MORE (Tenn.), Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchBottom line Bottom line Bottom line MORE (Utah), and Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsBiden swipes at Trump: 'Presidency is about a lot more than tweeting from your golf cart' Trump says Sessions wasn't 'mentally qualified' to be attorney general Trump slams Sessions: 'You had no courage & ruined many lives' MORE (Ala.).

The Democrats are Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyThe House impeachment inquiry loses another round — and yes, that's still going on Hillicon Valley: Trump threatens Michigan, Nevada over mail-in voting | Officials call for broadband expansion during pandemic | Democrats call for investigation into Uber-Grubhub deal Democratic senators call on regulators to investigate potential Uber-Grubhub deal MORE (Vt.), Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySenate votes to reauthorize intel programs with added legal protections The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Zeldin says Congress must help states; Fauci's warning; Dems unveil T bill The Hill's 12:30 Report: Fauci testifies, discusses students returning in August MORE (Wash.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHouse to consider amendment blocking warrantless web browsing surveillance COVID-19 increases importance of implementing reforms to organ donation system Senators offer bill to prevent relief payments from being seized by private debt collectors MORE (Ore.).  

Senate Democratic leaders say they already have proof that opioid funding is a bipartisan issue.

Murray has called attention to her recent efforts with Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill Senators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day GOP senators: More relief needed now MORE (R-Mo.) on the health subpanel of the Senate Appropriations Committee to approve the first bipartisan spending bill in seven years. That bill included a $126 million increase in opioids-related programs over last year's total.

Democrats have called for at least $600 million in emergency funding to halt the epidemic.

Deaths from opioid drug overdoses hit an all-time record in the U.S. last year, rising 14 percent.