Could The Bill To Combat Opioid Crisis Get Blocked By The House?

By May Wilkerson 03/24/16

Passing CARA may be less of a priority for the conservative-majority House who are still committed to a more rigid "war on drugs" approach to heroin regulation.

Could The Bill To Combat Opioid Crisis Get Blocked By The  House?
House Speaker Paul Ryan Photo via Christopher Halloran /

Earlier this month, the Senate took a major step towards fighting the country’s opioid crisis by passing the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) with an overwhelming 94-1 majority.

The bill then went straight to the House, where it seemed promising that it would pass with majority support. But it looks like the bill could face greater obstacles than expected, largely due to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s desire to shift power away from legislators and into the hands of judiciary committees.

Ryan (R-Wis.) has expressed his support for CARA, and the importance of passing the bill to address the growing opioid epidemic that has affected so many people. “It destroys lives. It is destroying families. It destroys whole communities. So I want to commend the Senate for passing a bill to improve treatment and recovery programs to address this growing opioid epidemic.” he said at a press conference earlier this month. 

He continued: “Our committees are looking at this right now and a number of our members have been working on this issue. We need to make addressing this opioid epidemic a priority, and that is exactly what the House will do. And we want to commend our friends in the Senate for quick action on this issue.”

But despite what seems to be a promising future for the potentially lifesaving bill, the words “our committees are looking at this right now” could signal problems ahead, according to the Huffington Post. Ryan rose to House Speaker after promising to restore “regular order” to the House—shifting power back to committee chairs. But on the issue of heroin, this commitment to restoring regular order could create a hurdle to getting CARA passed.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the Republican co-sponsor of CARA, said heroin is an “urgent problem” and allowing committees to determine its outcome could ultimately stall the bill, with serious consequences. “This is not like one of these bills you pass around here that’s gonna affect something over the next 10 years, so you can take your time on it,” he told HuffPost. “I would say that the problem is getting worse, not better.” People are dying, he added.

Part of the problem is that in the Republican-majority House, conservative members are still committed to a more rigid "war on drugs" approach to heroin regulation, HuffPost notes. Daniel Raymond, policy director with the Harm Reduction Coalition, said passage of the bill "feels like it's less of a priority on the House side" than in the Senate.

AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Ryan, said the House is working from both sides of the aisle to "produce a solution as soon as possible so a bill can be signed into law." But “as soon as possible” may not be soon enough with lives on the line.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.