Congress this week is expected to send President Obama legislation to combat heroin and painkiller abuse, despite disputes over whether there is enough money to support new treatment and prevention programs, the Washington Post reports. Senate Democrats have pushed for more funding, arguing that without it, the bill will not be able to deliver on its promise to help thwart the opioid epidemic. They do not plan to block the agreement that House and Senate negotiators finalized last week, says a spokesman for Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nv.). The legislation is expected to be approved in time for the height of the election season.
The bill would create or modify existing education, prevention, and treatment programs and put more lifesaving anti-overdose drugs in the hands of first responders. Republicans and Democrats will continue wrangling over whether there should be additional funding later this year when final spending bills are debated. “We can’t do it on the cheap,” Reid said. “And that’s what they’re trying to do.” Sens. Rob Portman (R-Oh.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) have placed particular emphasis on the legislation in their bids to retain their seats. They have highlighted their work on the issue (Portman was a co-author of the bill and Ayotte a chief co-sponsor) and their willingness to vote with Democrats for extra funding to show their commitment to fighting an epidemic that has hit their states particularly hard.