Opioid Funding in CR May Be Less Than Expected

Portman touted $37 million in the spending bill. (Rob Kunzig/Morning Consult)

The administration will only receive a fraction of the $37 million that is provided in a short-term continuing resolution to implement a recently-passed law addressing opioids, Democrats say.

Republicans and Democrats disagree over how much new opioid funding — which both sides support — is included as part of the stopgap spending measure. The GOP-backed continuing resolution to keep the government funded through Dec. 9 was introduced on Thursday. A procedural vote on the measure is slated for Tuesday.

Republicans applauded the measure for including $37 million in new funding for the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice to address opioid abuse. The money will allow the administration to begin setting up grant programs authorized under the recently signed legislation to curb the nation’s opioid crisis.

Republicans say the funding is “annualized” under the CR, which means that the agencies can launch new programs authorized under the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act if they choose. Republicans also plan to ask for more opioid money in an omnibus spending bill during the lame-duck session.

But Democrats say that because the funding is pro-rated, the administration will only have about $7 million to begin implementing the law during the 10 weeks that the stopgap measure would be in effect.

“This proves Republicans are only interested in making campaign ads, and not fighting the opioid crisis,” a Democratic aide said. “This is a cynical ploy, even for them.”

A spokeswoman for the Office of Management and Budget echoed Capitol Hill Democrats’ understanding of the bill. She said $7 million would be available through Dec. 9 under the legislation as written.

Lawmakers have still not reached an agreement on a stopgap spending measure, and they need to do so by the end of the month to prevent a government shutdown. Democrats say they won’t support the current measure because it does not include funding for Flint, Mich.

Earlier this year, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $261 million to address the opioids crisis for the upcoming fiscal year, a 93 percent increase over the current year. While $37 million would be an annual amount and not entirely available during the 10 weeks, it’s still a start. It’s unclear how much the agencies would spend during that time, Republicans say.

Democrats pushed for new funding for opioids to be attached to CARA when it passed both chambers over the summer. But even with some GOP support for the mandatory funds, they failed to add $600 million to the bill. Republicans vowed to include funding for the bill through the appropriations process. CARA authorized $181 million in new programs.

After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) introduced the continuing resolution, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) issued a statement praising the inclusion of new funding for the opioid crisis and calling the inclusion a “good start” to begin setting up CARA’s grant programs.

A Portman aide rejected the notion that the inclusion was politically motivated.

Every single Democrat voted for CARA, so you’d think they would support quick implementation of the law rather than mocking attempts to do so,” said Kevin Smith, a spokesman for Portman, in an email. “It shows they care more about politics than actually helping people suffering from addiction.”

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