Senate Dems seek $25B in opioid funding
Senate Democrats are pushing for an extra $25 billion to be included in any final budget agreement to combat the opioid epidemic.
Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, a pair of New Hampshire Democrats who are leading the effort, said during a press conference Tuesday that the federal response to the crisis has been insufficient and negotiations over a long-term spending deal are an opportunity to change that.
“Make no mistake: This is a national public health emergency, and we still don’t see a robust federal response,” Shaheen said. “The current federal budget negotiations give us an opportunity to right this wrong.”
While Democrats have repeatedly said additional funding for the opioid epidemic is a priority, Republicans haven’t matched their rhetoric, making it unclear if additional dollars will come in a spending package.
Top Democrats tried to make opioid funding an issue during the last round of budget negotiations in early December, but it was never added to the any of the short-term spending deals.
Current government funding expires Jan. 19, and lawmakers are facing a host of other pressing conflicts, including notably immigration.
President Trump wants to include funding for his border wall in any deal over the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which Trump is ending in March.
Advocates and Democrats say the opioid epidemic is being overlooked during the negotiations and that funding should be included as part of domestic spending.
“It’s important that as we budget for the defense of this nation, we don’t short shrift our domestic needs, particularly something of the magnitude of this opioid epidemic,” Shaheen said.
In late October, Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency. The move didn’t come with significant additional funding nor did it include a funding request to Congress, though talks with lawmakers are continuing.
On both sides of the Capitol, Democrats have introduced bills to increase funding for the opioid epidemic to the tune of $45 billion over 10 years, a nod to the amount of money Senate Republicans included in ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bills in part to offset changes to Medicaid.
The $25 billion pursued by Shaheen and Hassan would be provided over two years, they said.
“It’s going to take a far greater federal investment, but providing an additional $25 billion now is an important first step that we must take,” Hassan said.