Congress has voted to send the president a bill intended to improve heroin and painkiller addiction treatment, despite Democrats’ charge that the measure is a paper tiger being sent in to fight a worsening epidemic, the Washington Post reports. The legislation has become an important part of tough election battles in states like Ohio and New Hampshire, where opioid addiction has been a particularly acute problem. Republican leaders were eager to clear the bill before Congress heads home tomorrow for an almost two month break.
“At a time when drug overdoses claim 129 American lives every day, it’s painfully clear that we need to do more now,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said yesterday. While Democrats supported the measure, they argued it needs to be accompanied by additional funding or else it will be ineffective. Twenty Democrats insisted that McConnell he schedule a vote soon to approve additional spending to combat opioid abuse. The White House said the president will sign the bill despite concerns over its lack of funding. The measure sets up a state grant program to improve education and treatment resources for heroin and painkiller abuse, as well as outfit more first responders with anti-overdose drugs like naloxone. House and Senate negotiators rejected a Democrat-backed proposal to add an extra $920 million of addiction treatment dollars to the measure. Republicans argued that the legislation’s existing funding is dramatically more than the federal government has ever committed to fighting this sort of drug abuse.