Dems drop opposition to House opioid bill

Dems drop opposition to House opioid bill
© Greg Nash

House Democrats are dropping their opposition to the GOP-led package to fight opioid abuse after repeatedly condemning the legislation for containing too little funding for treatment.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, announced just minutes before the vote that he decided to support the package “after much thought.”  

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“It is not perfect, and does not do nearly enough from a funding perspective, but it makes some important steps that will allow us to begin to address the opioid addiction crisis that is impacting our nation,” Pallone said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also signaled that she would support the bill on the floor Friday. She said she hopes it “is just the first step” and that the GOP will commit more funding “in the very, very near future.”

Democrats are backing down in their fierce fight for more money to fight opioid abuse in a bill that will be one of Congress’s signature achievements this year.

The stance by House Democrats makes it all but certain that Senate Democrats will also concede on funding demands and allow GOP leaders to send the bill to the president’s desk before their self-imposed deadline next week.

Days earlier, Democrats who helped shape the bipartisan opioid bill had refused to sign off on the final report because it didn’t include new funding. While they repeatedly slammed the GOP’s bill, none would commit to voting against it on the floor.

Members changed their tune Friday just before a House vote on that bill, which is expected to reach the president’s desk next week.

Many Democrats cited the new measures announced by the Obama administration this week, including expanding access to anti-opioid medication. The House Appropriations Committee also released a proposed health spending bill this week that would contain more than $500 million to fight opioid addiction.

Pallone said Democrats would continue to push for funding, saying “we need to hold Republicans' feet to the fire” on funding. He added that the legislation “is only a small step at a time when the American people need us to run.”