Senate Dems press watchdog group to investigate Trump's strategy on opioid epidemic

Senate Dems press watchdog group to investigate Trump's strategy on opioid epidemic
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A group of Senate Democrats is pressing a congressional watchdog to investigate President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Trump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Ocasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment MORE’s efforts to combat the opioid epidemic.

Led by Sens. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayCruz, Ocasio-Cortez efforts on birth control access face major obstacles It's time to let Medicare to negotiate drug prices Ocasio-Cortez shares verse by the 'Congressional Destiny's Child' in promotion of new birth control legislation MORE (D-Wash.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenBiden calls for equal pay for US women's soccer team Biden calls for equal pay for US women's soccer team Trump steadfast in denials as support for impeachment grows MORE (D-Mass.), the Democrats asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review actions taken by the Trump administration to reduce the number of opioid deaths, as well as any steps taken to minimize the effect of opioids on American communities.

In October, President Trump announced with great fanfare that he was declaring the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency. The move was without precedent, as such declarations had in the past been reserved for natural disasters and the outbreak of infectious diseases.

The declaration only lasted for 90 days and was extended on Jan. 19, days before it was set to expire.

However, the Democrats say the administration has done little since. A public health emergency doesn’t free up any federal funding, and the administration has not allocated additional resources. 

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In 2016, Congress approved $1 billion over two years to combat the opioid epidemic. Advocates and Democrats say more is needed to make the public health emergency effective.

"Given the severity of the crisis, we have grown increasingly concerned by reports that the President has done little to make use of his public health emergency declaration, leaving state and local communities without the resources they need to fight the opioid epidemic," the senators wrote.

"Despite saying it would work with Congress, the White House has put forward no proposals for authorizing new funding," they added.

For years, the federal government has grappled with how to combat the skyrocketing rates of overdose deaths from prescription painkillers and heroin — rates that increased 28 percent from 2015 to 2016.

The Democrats asked the GAO for a summary of all actions the administration took to augment its response to the opioid epidemic during the first 90 days of the public health emergency, as well as during the second 90 day period.