Congress’ spending bill includes funding for the White House’s primary drug-fighting office, rejecting President Donald Trump’s calls to effectively gut the agency.
The $1.3 trillion spending bill Congress released Wednesday includes $812 million for the Office of National Drug Control Policy – more commonly known as the Drug Czar’s office. The legislation must pass by 11:59 p.m. Friday to prevent a government shutdown.
Trump’s February budget proposal sought to cut about 95 percent of the agency’s funding by moving two major programs to other departments. But the spending bill keeps both initiatives in the Drug Czar’s office.
Similarly, Congress rejected Trump’s previous proposal to gut the office in the same manner last year. The proposed cuts generated backlash from advocacy organizations and bipartisan groups of lawmakers alike in both instances.
Wednesday’s spending bill also includes an additional $4 billion to combat the opioid epidemic.
Trump has faced significant criticism over the Drug Czar’s office, particularly in the context of the crisis. The agency, for example, has been without a permanent head since Trump’s inauguration.
The president’s first nominee, Rep. Tom Marino, withdrew after a joint investigation by The Washington Post and “60 Minutes” reported that the Pennsylvania Republican took large donations from the pharmaceutical industry and was subsequently a top advocate for a law that effectively eliminated a powerful tool the Drug Enforcement Administration used to stop drugs from hitting the black market.
Trump appointed Jim Carroll as the acting drug czar in February, but the lawyer has not yet received Senate confirmation.
Additionally, a deputy chief of staff at the Office of National Drug Control Policy left the agency following media reports that the 24-year-old lacked qualifications.
Meanwhile, Politico reported that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, who has no experience in drug policy, had essentially been heading the strategy to combat opioids.
Trump recently announced a new strategy to combat the drug epidemic, which includes providing access to treatment and imposing the death penalty on some drug dealers.
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