Dems threaten to oppose opioid bill without funding

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Democratic leaders are threatening to oppose a landmark anti-addiction bill without “significant” new money, upping the ante in Congress’s months-long battle over funding to combat opiod abuse.

In a sharply worded letter to Republicans on Tuesday, Democrats called for at least $940 million to expand access to treatment.

That figure is higher than Senate Democrats’ initial push for $600 million, which earned support from just a handful of vulnerable Republican senators this spring.

Democrats are laying out their new demand one day after the GOP released a draft bill that includes only about $85 million over five years in new funding for treatment, according to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.

Democrats blasted the draft, condemning Republicans for “threatening to retreat to their partisan corner on yet another issue impacting families’ health and wellbeing.”

Lawmakers unveiled the legislation in its current form, which is more than 200 pages, two days before the bipartisan group working on the opioid package will meet to hash out a final compromise between the House and Senate bills.

In a rare move in an appropriations fight, Democrats also used their letter to publicly suggest ways to pay for the additional programs.

Democrats said they had found $1.2 billion in potential savings by tweaking the rules for Medicare and Medicaid overpayments and by cracking down further on fraud in those programs.

“While the scope and urgency of the opioid crisis would justify this investment being considered emergency spending, we are willing to put federal budget savings on the table,” Democrats said in the letter.

The meeting comes after several weeks of intense, closed-door battles over the package. GOP leaders hope to complete the bill before leaving town this month for an extended August recess ahead of the fall elections.


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