Senate Has Opportunity to Combat Opioid Epidemic and Zika, Support Troops
‘With cooperation this week, Senators will have several opportunities to advance serious solutions that can make a difference for the American people. From doing right by our veterans to protecting pregnant women and babies from Zika. From supporting our servicemembers to combatting the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic. From keeping airline travelers safe to modernizing America’s energy policies.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor today regarding this week’s legislative schedule:
“We’ve recently made progress on issues of importance to the American people. We’ve also seen some very regrettable decisions from our colleagues across the aisle. This week offers the opportunity for all of us — and our country — to move forward.
“Every Senator will have the chance to advance important solutions on behalf of the American people this week, and some colleagues will have a chance to reconsider partisan mistakes that hurt our country.
“This week, Democrats can reconsider their decision to block funding for the men and women serving and protecting us overseas. These Americans selflessly and voluntarily put themselves in harm’s way to help keep our country safe. They don’t ask for much in return. What they don’t deserve is for Democrats to filibuster the bill that supports them as part of some partisan political game.
“At a time when we face an array of terror threats around the globe, we cannot afford to play politics with the men and women serving and protecting us overseas. The bill Democrats are now filibustering respects the budget caps, was reported out of committee at the earliest point in more than a decade, and earned the support of every single Democrat in committee. The top Democrat on the Defense Subcommittee said it ‘takes a responsible approach to protecting our country…[that honors] the bipartisan budget deal in place’ and warned colleagues not to ‘take chances when it comes to funding the men and women serving in forward positions.’ He’s right. There is no excuse for Democrats to continue blocking this bill.
“They will have another chance to make the right decision later this week. This week, Democrats can reconsider their decision to block funding to fight Zika. Either Democrats believe Zika is a crisis that requires immediate action, or they do not. Either Democrats think protecting pregnant women and babies from Zika today is more important, or they think holding out for an earmark for their favorite partisan special interest group is more important.
“Even though the Administration has acknowledged that they haven't spent the anti-Zika money already available to them, Republicans believe we ought to pass this bill now because this is an emergency. Our friends across the aisle will have to decide if they feel the same.
“I would remind colleagues that the rules don't allow for a conference report to be amended, even for powerful Democrat special interest groups. And re-passing the same bill that went to conference, as some have naively suggested as political cover, won’t put a bill on the President’s desk.
“So I urge colleagues to work with us to pass this compromise Zika-control and veterans funding legislation and send it to the president for a signature — not block it and spend the summer explaining why a special interest group was more important than funding Zika control and our veterans.
“This week, Senators can take decisive action to combat the heroin and prescription opioid abuse epidemic that’s hitting nearly every state and community across America. Support for the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act conference report that passed the House last Friday seems to grow with each passing day.
“There are now more than 230 groups fighting this epidemic in their own communities that have come out in support, including the Detroit Recovery Project in Michigan, the Foundation for Recovery in Nevada, Central City Concern in Oregon, and Project Recovery in New Hampshire. One of these groups is the Fraternal Order of Police. Here’s what the group’s president had to say about it, ‘The legislation provides treatment for those caught in the clutches of addiction or who also suffer from mental illness and also provides law enforcement with necessary tools to prevent heroin and opioid deaths…Too many lives have been lost to these drugs, and too many families have been torn apart. On behalf of more than the 330,000 members of the Fraternal Order of Police, I urge Congress to adopt the conference report.’ Widespread support like this helps explain why the CARA conference report passed the House last week on an overwhelming vote, 407-5.
“Now it’s the Senate’s turn to act and send this critical comprehensive response to the president for his signature. We know Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans already voted 94-1 to pass a very similar CARA bill. We know this Senate has provided more than twice as much funding for opioid-related issues as under the previous Senate majority. We also know that there is a groundswell of support from so many corners for this CARA legislation that can help communities begin to heal from an epidemic sweeping the country. There’s no excuse to block it.
“I want to thank colleagues like Senator Portman, Senator Ayotte, Senator Grassley, and Senator Alexander who’ve worked ceaselessly to advance this issue. Our Democratic colleagues, like Senator Whitehouse and Senator Klobuchar, have worked hard on this bill too. I know they’re proud of their work, and I’m sure they look forward to supporting this overwhelmingly popular piece of legislation. The outspokenness and leadership of all these members and others on this issue helped move the bill forward with the urgency this crisis demands.
“This week, Senators can take action to improve security and consumer protections for airline travelers.
“Recent terror attacks across the globe only emphasize the importance of securing our airports. The bipartisan, bicameral aviation agreement aims to achieve that by enhancing security in pre-screening areas, increasing measures to address cybersecurity threats, improving vetting for airline employees, and tightening security standards for flights coming into the U.S.
“Not only will it increase safety and security, but it also includes a number of consumer-protection provisions like refunds for lost or delayed baggage as well as improvements for travelers with disabilities and for parents traveling with small children.
“We expect the House to pass this agreement tonight, and then the Senate will have the chance to send a bill to the president’s desk this week. Also, this week, Senators can take another important step toward modernizing America’s energy policies.
“The Senate will have an opportunity to go to conference with the House to work towards an agreement on the Energy Policy Modernization Act. This reform bill, which passed the Senate in April, represents the first broad energy legislation to move through the Senate since the Bush Administration. It aims to bring our aging policies and infrastructure in line with current and future demands. Going to conference on this measure would put us one step closer to arriving at a final bill and sending it to the president’s desk.
“With cooperation this week, Senators will have several opportunities to advance serious solutions that can make a difference for the American people. From doing right by our veterans to protecting pregnant women and babies from Zika. From supporting our servicemembers to combatting the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic. From keeping airline travelers safe to modernizing America’s energy policies.
“There’s a lot we can get done. These are issues that should be priorities for us all. I encourage colleagues on both sides to work together to advance each of these solutions in the coming days.”
Related Issues: Opioid Abuse, Senate Democrats, Health Care, Zika Virus, Appropriations, America's Military, Veterans, National Security