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Republicans unanimously reject nearly $1B in new funding for opioid bill

Republicans unanimously reject nearly $1B in new funding for opioid bill
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Republicans on Wednesday unanimously defeated Democratic attempts to add nearly $1 billion to the bipartisan opioid addiction treatment package.

GOP lawmakers shot down two amendments — from both a House and a Senate Democrat — that would have added $920 million to the bill aimed at halting the nation’s opioid epidemic. 

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Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) offered the amendment from the House, while Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas Government watchdog to investigate allegations of Trump interference at CDC, FDA Baldwin calls for Senate hearing on CDC response to meatpacking plant coronavirus outbreak MORE (D-Wash.) offered the Senate version. 

The votes took place Wednesday during Congress's first joint hearing on its bicameral opioid bill, during which Democrats made clear they wouldn’t back down from their funding demands.

“Action needs to be taken today to lock in real funds to deal with this epidemic,” Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee Wyden Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing House Democrats slam FCC chairman over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump FCC to move forward with considering executive order targeting tech's liability shield MORE (Ore.), the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said Wednesday. “I’m sorry to say the measure being considered falls short.” 

While the conference committee can proceed without Democratic support, the staunch opposition will become problematic when the bill reaches the Senate floor, where Democrats can block the bill from going forward. 

Republicans said they opposed the new funding, in part, because the GOP-led House Appropriations Committee unveiled a health spending bill earlier Wednesday that included $581 million to address opioid abuse — about $490 million below the Obama administration's budget request.

But Democrats, including Pallone, warned that states could not wait for the regular appropriations process, which remains uncertain going into the fall.

Democrats first called for the $920 million in a sharply worded letter to Republicans on Tuesday. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the chairman of the conference committee on the opioid bill, said the figure had not been discussed during previous weeks of negotiations.

“We must not allow this bill to be weighted down with last-minute objections,” Upton said Wednesday.

The $920 million 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.

GOP leaders are making a final push this week to produce opioid legislation before Congress leaves town for both party conventions.