Senate passes addiction-treatment bill without extra funding Democrats wanted; Obama says he will sign it

Sen. Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan, far right, spoke
at an enrollment ceremony to send the bill to President Obama.

The Senate passed and sent to President Obama on Wednesday a bill to improve treatment for heroin and prescription-drug abuse, but without the extra funding that Democrats said was needed to make it effective. The White House said Obama would sign it because “some action is better than none.”

“This is a comprehensive legislative response to the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic devastating Kentucky and our nation,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said in a press release. “At a time when drug overdoses claim 129 American lives every day, it’s painfully clear that even more can be done.”

Twenty Democrats sent McConnell a letter “insisting he schedule a vote soon to approve additional spending to combat opioid abuse,” reports Karoun Demirjian of The Washington Post. McConnell said Republicans have provided more than double the funding” than Democrats did when they held the Senate majority. He specifically thanked three GOP colleagues who face re-election fights.

“The legislation has become an important part of several tough election battles in states like Ohio and New Hampshire, where opioid addiction has been a particularly acute problem, and Republican leaders were eager to clear the bill before Congress heads home at the end of the week for an almost two month break,” Demirjian writes.

The White House said it would “continue to press Republicans to respond to this crisis” with more money. Democrats failed in their efforts to ad $920 million to the bill, titled the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.

The bill will create 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,” Demirjian notes. It would also create an inter-agency task force to review, modify, and update best practices for pain management and prescribing painkillers.

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