Pelosi Floor Remarks in Support of Bipartisan Legislation to Address the Opioid Crisis

July 8, 2016
Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks today on the House Floor in support of the bipartisan legislation to address the opioid epidemic.  Below are the Leader’s remarks:

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  I thank the gentleman for yielding.  I thank him for his excellent work in bringing this bipartisan legislation to the floor.  And with all due respect to Mr. Goodlatte, I credibly come to the Floor to say that this bill does not provide the funding that we need to address the opioid crisis in our country.  I come as an appropriator.  I thank you, Mr. Upton, again, and know that this is your last year as Chairman of the Committee.  I thank you for your openness, your willingness to work in a bipartisan way.  And I do think that this is a good piece of legislation.  It's lacking one thing: the resources to get the job done.

“I also come to the Floor as an appropriator and to hear Mr. Goodlatte say what's coming out of here and coming out of there.  In our Committee on Labor-HHS, we call it the ‘lamb eat lamb’ Committee because there was no good place to take money from.  We had carefully and economically – and husbanded the resources in such a way when we did budget agreements to use the money very well for the purposes, the investments in education and health, etc.  So, when an emergency comes along like the opioid epidemic, like Zika, like Flint – these are emergencies.  And by tradition, this House has always declared emergencies, whether a natural disaster or otherwise to say that funding would not be ‘lamb eat lamb’ within the appropriations process and take funds from very needed initiatives that Congress had agreed to in our own authorizations otherwise.

“So it had been my intention for us to come to the Floor to oppose this bill, to be able to sustain a Presidential veto until there would be resources.  But in the spirit of this day, we come to the Floor instead to say: let's move the process along, but let's also say that there are other issues like opioids and Zika and Flint that we really have to address in the near term.  The opioid epidemic as has been said by distinguished Chairman and Ranking Member and others – it’s such an important challenge, the well-being of our country.

“While you may say, ‘Flint is in Michigan and Zika's down south,’ the fact is: it affects all of us.  But, opioids are right there in all of our communities.  And all of the Members of Congress immediately see the need for the authorization, but also for the funding.  The Conference Report includes many important authorizing provisions in a bipartisan way, but it does not include the new funds that are essential to saving lives from opioids.

“Around a dozen law enforcement people were at the White House yesterday talking about the opioid epidemic.  Many people outside of the Congress support the principles in this bill.  But do you know that some of those law enforcement officials are having separate fundraisers of their own in order to help people address their opioid challenge?  We're just not living up to our responsibility in a timely fashion, and within the next week, hopefully, we'll leave with some additional funding.

“The President has asked for $1.1 billion to address the problem.  The distinguished Chairman of the Judiciary Committee says that the appropriators are putting more than that in certain cases in opioids, but if they are taking it out of other priorities, other investments in the health and well-being and the security of the American people, we're doing this at the expense of other good investments.  We'll not stop fighting until America’s families have the prevention, treatment and recovery resources they need to overcome the opioid epidemic.  And that is why for today, although the votes are there to sustain a presidential veto, we don't encourage that.  We encourage our cooperation today.

“With the hope and the promise that Mr. Rogers, whom we all respect – I served with him on Appropriations – and Mrs. Lowey, can come to terms in a way that does not have the opioid epidemic funded at the expense of other investments important to the American people.  It is a priority.  It is an emergency.  In other cases, we have had emergency spending for just that.  When we do budget agreements, as we did last year – very difficult staying under the caps and the rest – it was not with the idea that there would be a $1.1 billion need for opioids or $1.9 billion need for Zika funding.  It wouldn't be hundreds of millions of dollars for Flint.  These are extraordinary emergencies.  They should be treated that way.

“Nonetheless, I congratulate Mr. Upton and Mr. Pallone and all who had a role in putting this legislation together and hope that it is just a first step – in the very, very near future, we'll have money to match the values that are contained in this legislation.  With that, I yield back.”