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Politics & Policy

Are Republican Voters Interested in What Republican Lawmakers Are Doing?

From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Are Republican Voters Interested in What Republican Lawmakers Are Doing?

“Those Republicans in Washington never do anything!”

Actually, the House of Representatives spent last week passing 18 bills dealing with opioid addiction; the Senate passed one big comprehensive bill earlier.

The legislation that passed the House aims to fight the crisis in a number of ways, “including helping pregnant mothers who suffer from addiction, increasing access to naloxone (a drug that can reverse the effects of an overdose), and creating a task force of patients, medical officials, advocacy groups and federal agencies to establish guidelines for prescribing pain medication.”

The other bills would allow “patients to only partially fill opioid prescriptions, require the Food and Drug Administration to work with expert advisory committees before approving opioid products and drug labels and expand residential treatment programs for pregnant and postpartum opioid addicts.”  

Maybe you think these are good ideas to address the country’s addiction problems, maybe you don’t; maybe you think this is a top priority, maybe you don’t. Democrats are complaining that these bills authorize funds but they don’t appropriate them – i.e., give the federal agencies permission to spend the funds this way, but don’t actually transfer the money. Republicans say funding will be addressed in the appropriations bills passed later this year. You can argue whether it’s better to address the issue with one big bill, the way the Senate did, or to consider each idea separately.

But it’s impossible to dispute the House’s action received a small fraction of the coverage that the Donald Trump-Paul Ryan summit received. And one of the biggest complaints revealed in the GOP primary is the argument from primary voters that Republicans on Capitol Hill aren’t doing anything; they’re out-of-touch, they’re insulated, they have no idea about the kinds of problems that ordinary Americans face every day.

Are Republican legislators really that insulated and out-of-touch? Or is it that voters hear exceptionally little about what Congress is actually doing? Doesn’t a preponderance of the evidence suggest the political press – following their audience  – finds legislation boring? It doesn’t get clicks, it doesn’t get ratings. It’s much more fun and interesting to debate, “did Donald Trump pretend to be a fake personal spokesman back in the 1990s” than to calculate how much funding you need to provide for postpartum opioid addiction programs in order to see a real change in the scale of the problem.

Meanwhile, President Obama’s weekly video address also focused on addiction… and featured Seattle hip-hop artist Macklemore. Obama said, “This week, the House passed several bills about opioids – but unless they also make actual investments in more treatment, it won’t get Americans the help they need.”

But remember, Donald Trump is the worst for reducing politics to a celebrity-obsessed reality show!


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