Bipartisan Senate group opposes cuts to anti-drug office

Bipartisan Senate group opposes cuts to anti-drug office

Senators are urging the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and appropriators in the upper chamber to block major changes to an anti-drug office the Trump administration is reportedly weighing.

Last month, Politico reported that OMB was planning to propose moving two major grants at the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Under the plan, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area and Drug-Free Communities programs would be moved to the Department of Justice and Department of Health and Human Services, respectively.

This would lead to a 95 percent cut to the ONDCP as an opioid crisis grips the nation.

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“Not only would such action signal to the American public that the Administration is not serious about addressing the drug epidemic that our nation currently faces, but it could also have a devastating effect on programs that have been proven effective,” a bipartisan group of about 12 senators from the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control and Judiciary Committee wrote in a letter to OMB Director Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyFauci says positive White House task force reports don't always match what he hears on the ground Bottom line White House, Senate GOP clash over testing funds MORE on Thursday.

They also sent the letter to Sens. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoAnalysis finds record high number of woman versus woman congressional races Former VA staffer charged with giving seven patients fatal insulin doses Senate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick MORE (R-W.Va.) and Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsOn The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire MORE (D-Del.), who lead the appropriations subcommittee in charge of ONDCP’s budget. Both senators opposed the possibility of a 95 percent cut last year.

Two GOP lawmakers signed the letter, Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSkepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal Republicans uncomfortably playing defense Negotiators hit gas on coronavirus talks as frustration mounts MORE (Texas), the No. 2 Republican in the upper chamber, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyMcConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill GOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe On The Money: Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions | Pandemic reveals flaws of unemployment insurance programs | Survey finds nearly one-third of rehired workers laid off again MORE (Iowa). The rest were Democrats.

More than 150 groups have also come out in opposition to the changes.

The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program aims to help coordinate federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement in areas with high drug trafficking. The Drug-Free Communities program is a drug prevention effort that gives money to community coalitions to reduce substance abuse in youth.  

"Each of these programs is singularly focused on drugs," the senators wrote. "Moving them to other agencies without further examination could have negative consequences on local law enforcement and on the overall effectiveness of the programs."

The epidemic of prescription painkillers and heroin has been hitting the country hard, as opioid overdose deaths continue to rise. The rate of opioid overdose deaths increased 28 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to December data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In late October, President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency, and the administration extended the declaration another 90 days in mid-January.

Many advocates have panned the declaration, however, saying it hasn’t yet lead to much of consequence. They urge more funding to be allocated to curb the crisis, which will seemingly be up for negotiation in a larger spending package.

This story was updated at 6:31 p.m.