WASHINGTON (POLITICO) – The White House is expected to back down from its proposal to virtually eliminate funding for the federal drug control office amid a nationwide opioid epidemic, officials familiar with the Trump’s administration’s budget told POLITICO.
The administration was originally eyeing a 95 percent cut to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, POLITICO first reported earlier this month. The cut would have essentially halved the staff at the office overseeing the nation’s response to the opioid epidemic while slashing two major grant programs.
But after facing pressure from Republican and Democratic lawmakers — especially those in states ravaged by the opioid epidemic — the White House will propose just small reductions to those grant programs. The White House proposal, which will be released today, will give the office’s drug-free communities program $92 million, down from $95 million this year, according to a Senate aide familiar with the proposal. The high-intensity drug trafficking program will get $244 million, down from $250 million,
Trump’s budget office declined comment before it releases the full budget today.
Amid the initial outrage over the proposed 95 percent cut earlier this month, the White House stressed that it was still reviewing the budget and that no final decisions on funding had been made. Still, budget officials at the time suggested that the drug control office was duplicative of other efforts in the federal government.
Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) were among those expressing outrage over the proposal. In a bipartisan letter they led earlier this month, urged the administration “to protect ONDCP and maintain the long-standing and effective programs that prevent and fight against the scourge of drug abuse.”
Ultimately, the administration scrapped a proposal that many critics believed would hamstring the fight against an epidemic killing 33,000 Americans per year. Many of the communities hardest hit by epidemic overwhelmingly voted for Trump, who campaigned on ending the crisis.
“I’m happy to see OMB reversed course and included funding for the office in its budget,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said in a statement. Capito was among the lawmakers pressuring Trump to fund the office, noting that West Virginia has the highest drug overdose rate in the nation.
“We still have a long way to go when it comes to the drug epidemic, and it is essential that we remain fully committed to fighting it. We need to be doing more — not less,” she added.