Senators push back on Trump’s proposed cuts to drug control office

A group of 13 lawmakers warned President Trump that reducing the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s budget would derail the fight against opioids.
Lev Facher

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration’s proposal to nearly eliminate funding for White House office tasked with overseeing the nation’s opioid fight is getting fast and firm pushback from the Senate.

A bipartisan group of 13 lawmakers, led by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), warned President Trump this week that reducing the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s budget by nearly 95 percent would derail the fight against the opioid epidemic, hamper law enforcement efforts, and cost the government money in the long run.

The letter, addressed to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, cites a $10 return in savings for every $1 spent on addiction prevention efforts.

The White House has said that its proposal to slash the office’s budget was only preliminary. A spokesperson told reporters on Friday that despite the proposed cuts, which a White House document published by Politico said would allow the agency to “shift focus from duplicative and burdensome administrative tasks,” Trump remained committed to tackling the crisis.

Read more: As they fight the opioid crisis, addiction counselors see a grave new threat: the GOP health plan

The drug office received $388 million last year. The budget draft showed its funding would have been cut to $24 million for the fiscal year beginning in October.

Trump spoke about addressing the opioid crisis during his campaign, but has been criticized by some advocates for inaction. Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), expected to be selected to lead ONDCP, withdrew from consideration earlier this month.

On Wednesday, however, Trump formally announced the appointment of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and four others to a panel created to address the opioid crisis.

Christie said Tuesday that he had “good reason” to believe Trump would not follow through with the cuts.

Read more: Overcoming opioids: When pills are a hospital’s last resort

Some of the senators who signed Grassley and Feinstein’s letter had already put out their own statements opposing the cuts.

“We have a heroin and prescription drug crisis in this country and we should be supporting efforts to reverse this tide, not proposing drastic cuts to those who serve on the front lines of this epidemic,” Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said in a statement on Friday.