U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the bipartisan Opioid Crisis Response Act, legislation that passed the Senate yesterday, which included multiple Thune-authored provisions. Thune also discussed the current state of the economy: 4.2 percent economic growth, 200,000 new jobs created in August alone, and middle-class income hit an all-time high last year, among many other positive developments.
Thune’s remarks (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, in 2017, more than 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses.
“49,000 of those deaths were related to opioids.
“Opioid overdoses have surpassed motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of accidental death in the United States.
“Whole communities have been devastated by the opioid epidemic.
“The situation is rightly described as a crisis.
“Mr. President, here in Congress we are focused on doing everything we can to support the fight against substance use disorder.
“In 2016, we passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which authorized a variety of grants to states to boost their efforts to reduce opioid deaths and help individuals overcome opioid addiction.
“That same year, we also passed the 21st Century Cures Act, which provided $1 billion in state grants over two years to combat the opioid epidemic.
“In March of this year, Congress passed an appropriations bill that provided $4.7 billion to address the opioid crisis.
“And today we voted on an appropriations bill that will provide another $3.8 billion to fight this epidemic.
“Overall, federal funding to address the opioid crisis has increased by nearly 1,300 percent over the past four years.
“And then there’s the bill we passed last night.
“The Opioid Crisis Response Act, which passed the Senate yesterday evening, is the product of months of work by five Senate committees.
“It contains more than 70 proposals from senators of both parties and represents the serious efforts Congress has made to address opioid addiction on a number of fronts.
“This legislation will support critical treatment and recovery efforts.
“It will help babies born in opioid withdrawal.
“It will help support family-focused residential treatment programs.
“Just as importantly, it will also take steps to address what I see as the supply side of the opioid epidemic.
“It will help stop the movement of illegal drugs across our borders through the mail.
“It will promote research into, and fast-track approval of, new, non-addictive pain management alternatives.
“And it will help stop the practice of “doctor shopping” by improving state prescription-drug-monitoring programs.
“The bill also provides grants for law enforcement agencies to help protect law enforcement officers from accidental exposure to deadly drugs in the course of their duties.
“I’m proud that this legislation includes my Expanding Telehealth Response to Ensure Addiction Treatment Act, which will help expand access to substance use disorder treatment for Medicare recipients using telehealth technology.
“The Opioid Crisis Response Act also includes my legislation to close a safety gap in railroad drug and alcohol testing regulations and require the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Transportation to include fentanyl in the drug-testing panel.
“Mr. President, opioid addiction destroys lives.
“Not just the lives of the addicted, but the lives of their children. Their parents. Their siblings. Their spouses. Their relatives and friends.
“The Opioid Crisis Response Act and the funding we passed today will help move us forward in the fight against this deadly epidemic.
“And we will continue to make combating opioid addiction a top priority here in Congress.
“Mr. President, before I close, I just want to mention the good economic news that continues to pour in.
“The economy created more than 200,000 jobs in August – beating expectations – and the unemployment rate was yet again below 4 percent.
“Economic growth in the second quarter was even stronger than we thought: a robust 4.2 percent.
“Average hourly earnings for workers are rising at the fastest rate since 2009.
“Middle-class income hit its highest level ever last year.
“U.S. job openings have hit a record high of 6.94 million.
“In fact, the number of job openings has exceeded the number of unemployed for the past five months.
“That has never happened before in the history of tracking these two statistics.
“Consumer confidence is at an 18-year high.
“Small business optimism shattered its previous record to reach a record high in August.
“The poverty rate has dropped to its lowest level since 2006.
“The percentage of Americans listing economic issues as the most important problem facing the United States dropped to a record low.
“And the list continues.
“Since President Trump took office, Republicans have focused on fixing the things that were holding our economy back.
“We’ve removed burdensome regulations.
“And we passed a historic, comprehensive reform of our tax code to put more money in Americans’ pockets and remove barriers to job creation and economic growth.
“And now we’re seeing the results.
“Strong economic growth.
“Thriving small businesses.
“More money in families’ paychecks.
“New jobs and better benefits.
“And more opportunities for American workers.“Mr. President, America is back in business.”