The president called the opioid problem a “national emergency” just last month. The prospects for funding to deal with it may be limited, in view of a clamor for funding to pay for damages by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
When President Trump announced last month after a commission’s recommendations that the opioid crisis was a “national emergency,” he called it “a serious problem the likes of which we have never had.”
A month has passed, and that urgent talk has yet to translate into urgent action. While White House aides say they are pursuing an expedited process, it remains to be seen how and by what mechanism Trump plans to direct government resources, the New York Times reports. While the president’s opioid commission, led by Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, urged him to move swiftly, Trump and his cabinet — primarily health secretary Tom Price — are trying to determine how best to move forward amid warnings from deficit hawks about the potential costs.
As with many of his campaign promises, Trump is discovering the realities of limited government resources, slow-moving agencies and the competing agendas of cabinet members. The hurricanes that have struck Texas and Florida, and the costly recovery that will follow, appear to have complicated the process.
During the primary campaign last year, Trump surged to victory in New Hampshire in part on his promise to focus on the opioid crisis, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives and shows little sign of abating.
Christie and other commission members know the chances of pushing a funding bill through a log-jammed Congress are slim. A law known as the Stafford Act is the option that would be likely to free up the most money. It would be allocated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which traditionally focuses on recovery after physical disasters, such as the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, or the recent hurricanes.