Ryan Team Shames Reporters for Ignoring ‘Swift Action’ on Opioid Crisis, Forgets House Took Three Years to Act on Life-Saving Bills

By: Meredith Kelly

Today, Speaker Ryan’s office put out a memo snarkily addressed to “The Fourth Estate” in which they attempted to shame reporters for not paying attention to the House Republicans’ “swift action” to address the heroin epidemic. In fact, reporters have paid attention to the issue . . . it’s just that they – and others, including health advocates and even Senate Republicans – have highlighted the House Republicans’ lack of meaningful action.

“In a desperate attempt to distract reporters from the awkward and painful Trump and Ryan meeting this week, Ryan’s team is pointing to a bright shiny object: the opioid bills that the House is considering on the floor. But even that topic causes problems for Paul Ryan and House Republicans, given that many stakeholders, from health advocates to Senate Republicans, have stated that House Republicans’ delays in dealing with this health crisis are hugely problematic – and dangerous,” said Meredith Kelly of the DCCC. 


Washington Post: “House Republicans playing deadly politics with painkillers — so say some Senate Republicans.” [Washington Post, 4/13/16]

Cleveland Plain-Dealer: “Heroin bill passed swiftly by U.S. Senate sinks in House.” [Cleveland Plain-Dealer, 4/29/16]

Huffington Post: “Paul Ryan’s Commitment To ‘Regular Order’ Collides With Major Heroin Legislation.” [Huffington Post, 3/22/16]

Republican Senator Portman: Senate Passed Opioid Legislation 94-1 – “This Is Not Like One Of These Bills . . . You Can Take Your Time On.” “‘I talked to Paul at length over the weekend about it,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the Republican co-sponsor of CARA, in an interview with The Huffington Post last week. ‘You know, he’s running the House a little bit differently and I respect that, saying deference to the committee chairs.’ ‘But this thing passed 94 to 1 and it’s an urgent problem,’ he went on. ‘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. I would say that the problem is getting worse, not better.’” [Huffington Post, 3/22/16]

Republican Sen. Portman, On Opioid Legislation: “We Worked With The House For Three Years To Write The Legislation. It’s Not Like We Ignored Them.” “‘We worked with the House for three years to write the legislation,’ said Sen. Rob Portman. ‘It’s not like we ignored them.’ The Cincinnati Republican – who co-authored the bill and remains its most vocal champion – said that the understanding was that both chambers of Congress would work together in a bipartisan manner to craft pro-active legislation to treat the public health epidemic cratering rural, urban and suburban communities across the United States. The Senate would pass it. The House would follow suit. And Obama would sign it into law. ‘I urged them to take up the [Addiction and Recovery Act],’ Portman said. ‘They mistakenly chose not to.’” [Cleveland Plain-Dealer, 4/29/16]

Portman Urged House To Pass Senate Bill: “Let Me Just Say To My Friends In The House, Respectfully, The Senate Has Made Your Job A Lot Easier. We Have Already Done The Hard Part.” “The lead Republican sponsor of CARA, Sen. Rob Portman, would just as soon have the House take up his bill than spend time reinventing the wheel. ‘Every day, we lose about 120 Americans to drug overdoses. That means that we’ve lost more than 3,240 Americans since the Senate passed this bill,’ Portman said on the Senate floor Thursday. ‘Let me just say to my friends in the House, respectfully, the Senate has made your job a lot easier. We have already done the hard part.’” [Politico, 4/11/16]

Harm Reduction Coalition Policy Director On Opioid Legislation: “It Feels Like It’s Less Of A Priority On The House Side.” “But the problem for the House is that its more conservative members are still committed to an enforcement-first, war-on-drugs approach to the opioid crisis. On the CARA legislation, ‘there’s been less of a drumbeat on the House side than on the Senate side,’ said Daniel Raymond, policy director with the Harm Reduction Coalition, an advocacy group. ‘It feels like it’s less of a priority on the House side.’” [Huffington Post, 3/22/16]

Faces & Voices Of Recovery Executive Director: Failure To Include Recovery Provisions “Will Prolong The Crisis Of Addiction.” “Instead, they created a blizzard of bills – a dozen at last count — related to opioid and heroin abuse. Worse, none of those bills included a critical component of the Senate-passed legislation: The initiative to develop, expand and enhance treatment services, said Ryan, chair of the House Addiction and Recovery Caucus. Patty McCarthy Metcalf, executive director of Faces & Voices of Recovery, a national advocacy organization, wrote in a letter Portman quoted on the Senate floor that the lack of recovery provisions ‘will prolong the crisis of addiction by not providing the critical support in communities across our nation where it is needed most.’” [Cleveland Plain-Dealer, 4/29/16]

Washington Post: Senate Republicans, Advocates Worry “House’s Decision To Start From Scratch Instead Of Picking Up The Popular Senate Bill May Upset A Near-Perfect Opportunity To Get Something Done.” “GOP leaders seem to believe that giving Dold airtime on the issue — which has been a focus of the presidential campaign and may bleed into House and Senate contests — is smart politics. Yet some champions of painkiller legislation, including vulnerable Senate Republicans, beg to differ. They fear the House may be foot-dragging on bipartisan Senate legislation in order to let members take a turn in the spotlight on a widely popular issue. But in the process, they worry, the House’s decision to start from scratch instead of picking up the popular Senate bill may upset a near-perfect opportunity to get something done.” [Washington Post, 4/13/16]

Washington Post: “Portman Questions Whether House Members Speaking Of Urgency In Their Public Comments Are Really Committed To Putting Politics Aside And Getting A Bill Done.” “Portman and his colleagues point to the bipartisan support as the best argument for capitalizing on the moment for Congress to address the national opioid epidemic. But Portman questions whether House members speaking of urgency in their public comments are really committed to putting politics aside and getting a bill done. Every extra moment they deliberate, Portman argues, they potentially waste time. ‘The House must act, and they must act soon,’ Portman said on the Senate floor last week, the same day McCarthy announced the House would go its own way on the issue. ‘I am not going to be patient on this. This is urgent, and people’s lives are at stake. . . . We need to take advantage of this opportunity that the Senate has given us by this huge vote.’” [Washington Post, 4/13/16]