Government & Politics

McCaskill wants to team up with Trump to fight the opioid epidemic

Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri is reaching out to the Trump administration in hopes of working with it on ways to fight the opioid epidemic.
Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri is reaching out to the Trump administration in hopes of working with it on ways to fight the opioid epidemic. The Associated Press

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill has been searching for common ground with President Donald Trump since November, and she’s hoping she may have found it.

The Democrat, who is up for re-election in 2018, sent a letter to Trump on Friday in which she says she’s committed to working with the president and his administration “to do everything we can” to halt the opioid epidemic.

“Given your remarks during your campaign for presidency and your recent establishment of a White House commission on opioids,” McCaskill wrote in the letter, “I am encouraged that our goals in stopping this crisis are the same — to help as many afflicted by this crisis through effective, strategic planning and implementation.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

Trump won McCaskill’s home state of Missouri by nearly 20 percentage points in November. Now the Democratic senator, who campaigned for Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, says she’s looking for areas to work with his administration, whether on reducing prescription drug prices, rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, reforming the tax code or combating the opioid epidemic.

More than 1,000 people from McCaskill’s home state of Missouri died of drug overdoses in 2015, the most recent year that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported such data. Prescription opioid-related visits to Kansas City-area emergency rooms also have shot up, from just nine in 2004 to more than 60 in 2013, according to the city’s Health Department.

While McCaskill’s letter opens and closes with outreach to Trump, the bulk of it takes his administration to task for actions that McCaskill warns would undermine efforts to combat the opioid epidemic.

The senator writes that she is “greatly disturbed” by news that the administration wants to slash the budget for the Office of National Drug Control Policy by nearly 95 percent, from $388 million to $24 million, and eliminate federal grants it administers. A leaked memo first published by CBS revealed the administration sought the cut in order to create a “smaller, more streamlined organization.”

McCaskill warns Trump in her letter that “reducing this office’s budget so dramatically will only turn the clock back on our progress and create insurmountable damage in an increasing health emergency.”

She also objects to proposed Medicaid cuts in the House-passed bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and to Trump’s signing of an executive order that phases out the White House Rural Council and replaces it with a task force that McCaskill complains “is not explicitly charged with addressing opioid misuse.”

“The combination of these actions raises serious concerns that the Administration may be reducing its commitment to combating the opioid problem in our country,” McCaskill writes. “I am hopeful this is not the case.”

She says she would welcome more information from the administration on specific actions the president will be taking to fight opioid abuse.