Dealing With Opioid Deaths And The 9/11 Aftermath

Grind for July 19th
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– George Burns

Good News

The Headline

Drug overdose deaths are down for the first time in 20 years

The Grind

Drug overdose deaths in the United States have dropped for the first time since 1999, announced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week.

“Lives are being saved, and we’re beginning to win the fight against the crisis, [but] by no means have we declared victory against the epidemic or addiction in general,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “This crisis developed over two decades and it will not be solved overnight.”

Total deaths dropped 5.1% in 2018 and deaths from semi-synthetic opioids including morphine and oxycodone dropped 14.5% (compared to 2017). Deaths linked to cocaine, meth, and synthetic opioids like fentanyl (an illegal substance that is up to 100x stronger than morphine) increased.

The Details

America’s struggle with opioid addiction has largely been blamed on drug makers who claimed their painkillers were safe and on the physicians who over-prescribed pain pills.

Drug overdose deaths have increased steadily each year for the past two decades, with a noticeable spike beginning in 2014. Major US drug makers handed out an estimated 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pain pills between 2006 and 2012.

Not So Fast

The Headline

Rand Paul blocks proposal to offer health insurance to 9/11 first responders

The Grind

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul on Wednesday voted against a bill that would have funded permanent healthcare for 9/11 first responders, insisting it would add to the national debt.

House lawmakers approved the bill 404-12 last week following an emotional testimony from comedian Jon Stewart, who slammed lawmakers for failing to attend a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the proposal earlier this month.

“Behind me, a filled room of 9/11 responders, and in front of me, a nearly empty Congress,” said Stewart during the hearing. “Shameful. It’s an embarrassment to the country and it is a stain on this institution. And you should be ashamed of yourselves for those that aren’t here. But you won’t be, because accountability doesn’t appear to be something that occurs in this chamber.”

The Details

Seeking to pass the bill through the upper chamber without debate, New York Senator and presidential hopeful Kirstin Gillibrand on Wednesday asked for “unanimous consent.”

Rand Paul, a notorious swing voter, objected.

“It has long been my feeling that we need to address our massive debt in this country,” argued Paul. “We have a $22 trillion debt, we’re adding debt at about a trillion dollars a year…And therefore any new spending that we are approaching, any new program that’s going to have the longevity of 70, 80 years, should be offset by cutting spending that’s less valuable.”

In response to fierce criticism from Gillibrand and others, Paul explained that he would introduce an amendment if the bill were to be debated on the Senate floor. “Not blocking the 9/11 bill – simply asking for a vote on an amendment to offset the cost,” he tweeted.

Jon Stewart criticized Rand’s decision as “absolutely outrageous” and called him out for supporting the Trump Administration’s 2017 tax cut.

“Rand Paul presented tissue paper avoidance of the $1.5 trillion tax cut that added hundreds of billions of dollars to our deficit, and now he stands up at the last minute after 15 years of blood, sweat, and tears from the 9/11 community to say that it’s all over now, now we’re going to balance the budget on the backs of the 9/11 first responder community.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to hold a floor vote on the 9/11 bill soon.

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