- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Senate Democrats pressed GOP leaders to free up $25 billion over two years to combat opioids addiction, laying down a new marker ahead of final negotiations over a major spending package this month.

Prescription painkiller and heroin abuse is killing tens of thousands of people per year, prompting President Trump to declare it a public health emergency. Yet he left it up to Congress to free up new resources for the fight.

“The administration continues to pay lip service to the opioids crisis,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire Democrat. “We need action, not more empty promises.”

Congress approved $1 billion in grant funding in late 2016 to address the opioids problem, yet Democrats say that amount wasn’t sufficient and is set to run out.

Democrats previously demanded $45 billion over 10 years to match what Republicans set aside for the opioids fight in their Obamacare replacement plan, which fell apart last summer.

Democrats would still accept that number, but felt that $25 billion was more suitable number to grease the wheels during the current talks.

“We think this is a reasonable sum,” Ms. Shaheen said.

Congress is still reaching for a final deal on spending before federal money runs out Jan. 19.

Money for opioids is just one part of the sprawling negotiations, which have largely centered on what to do about “Dreamers” who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

Democrats say any increase in defense funding should trigger equal increase in domestic funding for things like opioids addiction.

“The opioids crisis is the greatest public health crisis facing our country,” Sen. Maggie Hassan, New Hampshire Democrat, said. “We can’t afford inaction.”

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