As the crisis on the southern border rages out of control, Congress has failed to come up with a solution to one of the border crisis’ most devastating side effects: The spread of opioids which poisoned over 100,000 Americans last year alone.
As reported by Politico, the last measure that was successfully passed in an effort to combat the opioid crisis was the SUPPORT Act, passed in Congress on a bipartisan basis and signed into law by President Donald Trump in 2018. But the law, which spent $20 billion on treatment, prevention, and recovery from opioid addiction and poisoning, expired on September 30th with no replacement.
The number of Americans killed by fentanyl overdoses has since increased by over 60%. Now, some in Congress have expressed concerns that there may not be a clear solution to this growing epidemic, while partisan divides have also made it more difficult to pass such legislation.
In July, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved a new version of the SUPPORT Act; some, however, have criticized this version of the bill as weaker than its predecessor. On the Senate side, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.) has proposed his own version of the bill, but with no Democratic support.
When asked why the Senate has not worked to approve a bill, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, simply said that “we’re working on a myriad of problems.” Senator Cassidy said that missing the deadline to pass a new SUPPORT Act “puts vital resources in jeopardy.”
Passing any legislation through Congress has also become much harder in the aftermath of the ousting of Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), following ideological disagreements between McCarthy and conservative members of the House. The lower chamber has struggled to elect a speaker due to ongoing divides within the Republican caucus, which has forced previous nominees Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to bow out of the race. As long as there is no speaker, the House cannot pass bills.
In 2022, there were roughly 105,000 deaths by opioid overdoses in the United States. While some were due to ongoing addictions, others were instances of opioid poisoning, where unsuspecting children and adults alike are deceptively given opioids such as fentanyl that are simply disguised as regular pills, vitamins, and sometimes even candy.