S. 524: To authorize the Attorney General and Secretary of Health and Human Services to award grants to address the national epidemics of prescription opioid abuse and heroin use, and to provide for the establishment of an inter-agency task force to revi

This was a vote to pass S. 524 in the House.

Overdoses from heroin, prescription drugs, and opioid pain relievers last year surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of injury-related death in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Deaths have reached their highest levels of the 21st century in 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Heroin overdoses have more than tripled in the last five years, an issue receiving outsize attention nationally but especially during the presidential campaign season as New Hampshire has been one of the hardest-hit states.

New legislation aims to tackle this epidemic. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, S. 524 and H.R. 953, was introduced by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI5) and will receive a hearing on Thursday from the Senate Judiciary Committee.

This appears to be one of the few political issues with potential bipartisan agreement. The Senate version has 17 Democrat and eight Republican co-sponsors while the House version has 53 Democrats and 21 Republicans. Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton has proposed a $10 billion plan to combat the problem, while Republican candidates including Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Chris Christie, and Carly Fiorina have all shared personal stories about family and friend experiences with overdose.

As detailed in a press release by Whitehouse, the legislation would:

  • Expand the availability of naloxone — which can counter the effects of a heroin or opioid overdose — to law enforcement agencies and other first responders

  • Improve prescription drug monitoring programs to help states monitor and track prescription drug diversion “and to help at-risk individuals access services,” because inefficiencies and loopholes in the current programs allow many individuals to game the system and obtain more drugs than they should

  • Shift resources towards identifying and treating incarcerated people who are suffering from addiction, rather than just punishment as is often the case currently

  • Prohibit the Department of Education from including questions about the conviction of an applicant for the possession or sale of illegal drugs on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) financial aid form

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) advocated the bill in last week’s Weekly Republican Address: ““This legislation is moving and that’s good. There is an urgency to this issue — Congress must act now to help repair our communities, our families and our country. CARA — this comprehensive approach — will help more Americans put their lives back together and help individuals achieve their God-given potential.”

No Member of Congress appears to have expressed outright opposition to this bill. It sits at the intersection of criminal justice reform and mental health legislation, two of the three policy areas which House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI1) claimed could pass both the Republican Congress and Democratic president this year. However, its chances of passage may lessen depending on political considerations such as the potential for bipartisan cooperation in an election year — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced last week that he may not take up any substantive legislation in 2016.

Congress
114th Congress
Date
Jul 8, 2016
Chamber
House
Number
#399
Question:
On the Conference Report in the House
Result:
Passed

Totals     Republican     Democrat
  Yea 407
 
 
94%
233 174
  Nay 5
 
 
1%
5 0
Not Voting 21
 
 
5%
8 13
Required: Simple Majority source: house.gov
Seat position based on our ideology score.

Vote Details

Notes: The Speaker’s Vote? “Aye” or “Yea”?
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