‘Truly a Comprehensive Response to the Opioid Epidemic’

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday regarding the bipartisanComprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and funding to support veterans, anti-Zika efforts:

“Angie was ‘a beautiful girl with a heart of gold and a smile that would light up a room’ before her life was changed by heroin. Angie described her addiction to her mother saying, ‘Mom, I need this drug like I need air to breathe.’ It would take Angie experiencing an overdose and her mom begging her to quit before she agreed to seek treatment. Unfortunately though, like so many addicts, Angie left the treatment facility and started using again. She told her mother, ‘I’m in a black hole and I can’t get out.’ Angie would end up dying from an overdose, her body dumped callously at the bottom of a muddy creek by her drug dealer.

“Tragically, Angie’s story is just one glimpse into the widespread prescription opioid and heroin epidemic sweeping our country. In fact, drug overdoses now claim 129 lives a day.

“The families of these victims know more must be done to prevent others from enduring the pain of drug addiction and overdose.

“Anti-drug groups and law enforcement officials also know more must be done to prevent the widespread loss communities have experienced at the hand of this crisis. That’s why nearly 250 anti-drug and law enforcement groups across the country have voiced their support for the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) conference report. Just last week, these groups collectively sent a letter urging passage of this legislation, which they called a ‘truly a comprehensive response to the opioid epidemic’ that represents ‘the critical response we need.’

“These groups represent states from coast to coast, from Lifehouse Recovery Connection in California…to Justice and Recovery Advocates in Maryland…to Friends of Recovery in New York …among dozens and dozens of others. They’ve seen the crisis firsthand and they know the positive impact this bipartisan comprehensive response can have. Here’s what I mean.

“The National Association of Counties and the National League of Cities has asked Congress to ‘act quickly’ and pass the CARA conference report. They call it a ‘…a pivotal step towards stemming the tide of this epidemic.’ The Addiction Policy Forum has warned Congress ‘not [to] play politics’ by blocking passage of this CARA conference report. They call it ‘a monumental step forward — a tipping point to better addressing the paralyzing opioid epidemic.’ The Faces and Voices of Recovery has urged support too. They call it ‘the most expansive federal, bipartisan legislation to date for addiction support services’ and they say it can ‘help save the lives of countless people.’ And the Fraternal Order of Police has asked Congress ‘to adopt the conference report’ on behalf of its more than 330,000 members. They call it another ‘…tool to reduce the deaths from this epidemic.’

“We’re just one step away from sending this legislation to the president’s desk. The House overwhelmingly passed it, by a vote of 407-5. With continued cooperation, the Senate can send it to the president this week.

“This Senate has provided more than twice as much funding for opioid-related issues as under the previous Senate majority. Let me say that again, this Senate has provided more than twice as much funding for opioid-related issues as under the previous Senate majority.

“The passage of CARA would represent another crucial step towards combatting this crisis. It wouldn’t have been possible without the unwavering commitment of members like Senator Portman, Senator Ayotte, Senator Grassley, and Senator Alexander to move this bill forward. From raising awareness about this crisis to serving as voices for the voiceless and working across the aisle to develop this comprehensive legislative response, these Senators were resolute in their support. In no small part because of their efforts to drive this bill forward, communities will be better equipped to prevent heroin and prescription opioid abuse in the first place, just as they’ll be better equipped to save lives and foster treatment and recovery. I want to also recognize the work of Democratic members, like Senator Whitehouse and Senator Klobuchar, for their efforts to help garner support for this bill and move it through the legislative process.

“There’s no reason every Senator shouldn’t support it now. The sooner we send this bill to the president’s desk, the sooner we can help our communities begin to heal from the prescription opioid and heroin crisis. And another way to do that is by passing the conference report that would fight Zika and enact record levels of funding for veterans’ Medical Services, including millions for substance abuse and treatment.

“Democrats are clearly very nervous about their decision to attack women’s health and veterans with their filibuster of the anti-Zika funding bill. Who can blame them? They’ve put forth a variety of tortured excuses that don’t stand up to scrutiny. They’ve offered a proposal that they hope would provide political cover — by ditching funding for our nation’s veterans. That’s not a solution.

“I don’t know how Democrats plan to explain any of this to veterans this summer. I certainly don’t know how Democrats plan to explain this to pregnant mothers. Either Democrats believe Zika is a crisis that requires immediate action, or they do not.

“Republicans believe we ought to pass this bill now because this is a crisis. Our friends across the aisle will have to decide if they feel the same or if a partisan political group is worth delaying funding to protect families from Zika or funding our veterans.

“There is only one option to get anti-Zika funding on the President’s desk before September, and that is passing the compromise Zika-control and veterans funding legislation before us and sending it to him. The rules don't allow for a conference report to be amended, and re-passing the same bill that went to conference won’t put a bill on the President’s desk, it won’t create a vaccine, it won’t kill a single mosquito, and it won’t help a single pregnant mother. So let’s do the right thing for our nation and pass the legislation before us.”

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 ‘This Senate has provided more than twice as much funding for opioid-related issues as under the previous Senate majority…The sooner we send this bill to the president’s desk, the sooner we can help our communities begin to heal from the prescription opioid and heroin crisis. And another way to do that is by passing the conference report that would fight Zika and enact record levels of funding for veterans’ Medical Services, including millions for substance abuse and treatment.’

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