GOP Sens. Tom Coburn (Okla.) and Mike Lee (Utah) are blocking legislation sponsored by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) geared at strengthening mental health programs across the country.
According to a Star Tribune report Monday, anonymous sources have confirmed that Coburn and Lee oppose the bill because they believe that states -- rather than the federal government -- should govern how mentally ill people are treated.
Franken declined to confirm the identities of the senators to the Star Tribune, but said that lawmakers are being heavily lobbied behind the scenes to allow a vote on the bill, which has bipartisan support.
"There is pressure from law enforcement groups and attorneys from within his state for him to not block the bill," Franken said of one of the senators. "I think we’ll get there, but right now there is a hold on the bill."
The Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Act would authorize $40 million to extend funding for mental health courts for five years, create more crisis intervention teams to work closely with police and offer veterans better screening for mental health problems. The bipartisan bill has 13 Republican co-sponsors in the Senate.
The White House announced $100 million in additional funding for mental health services earlier this month.