Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) are pushing President Donald Trump to formally declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency, something he promised in August but has yet to do.
It’s been 63 days since Trump verbally referred to the opioid crisis as a “national emergency,” the senators noted in a letter they sent to the president Thursday.
“The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I’m saying officially right now it is an emergency. It’s a national emergency,” Trump told reporters while at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. He said his administration was “drawing documents now” and planned “to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis.”
Declaring the national emergency would allocate more federal funding to state and local officials dealing with the crisis, as well as pressure lawmakers to take more long-term steps. But no documents have been filed, and the administration hasn’t said when Trump will make an official declaration.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in September that the delay was due to “a much more involved process,” and cited legal and administrative issues.
In their letter, Warren and Murkowski pushed the president to take quick action.
“We applaud your stated commitment to addressing opioid addiction and agree with you that the crisis is a ‘serious problem’ deserving of increased federal resources,” they wrote. “However, we are extremely concerned that 63 days after your statement, you have yet to take the necessary steps to declare a national emergency on opioids, nor have you made any proposals to significantly increase funding to combat the epidemic.”
The White House has continued to recognize the extent of the opioid crisis with symbolic gestures. Trump designated a week in September as Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, and first lady Melania Trump traveled to West Virginia earlier this week to tour an opioid treatment center for infants born addicted to drugs.
The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis advised Trump to declare a national emergency in July.
“With approximately 142 Americans dying every day, America is enduring a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks,” a report from the commission said.
Read Warren and Murkowski’s letter below: