Trump administration backs off on major drug control cuts

White House
The White House yielded to bipartisan pressure, greatly decreasing the size of proposed budget cuts to drug control programs.

Bipartisan pushback on deep cuts to federal drug control programs has resulted in a budget proposal that makes only modest reductions.

The original White House proposal looked to cut the Office of National Drug Control Policy by some 95%, according to a Politico article. But the administration backed off that figure, settling on a 5% cut in the face of pressure from lawmakers concerned with the ongoing opioid epidemic.

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Notable critics of the initial proposal included Senators Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W. Va.

The White House issued a release touting the “significant resources” called for in the administration’s fiscal 2018 budget request.

“By funding critical public health and public safety efforts, this budget demonstrates the Trump Administration’s commitment to stopping drugs from entering the country and supporting treatment efforts to address the burgeoning opioid epidemic,” said Richard Baum, acting director of national drug control policy.

According to Politico, however, the administration’s decision to lump law enforcement funds into its proposed “total federal drug budget” obscures cuts to the drug-free communities program and high-intensity drug trafficking program, as well as staffing cuts at the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The article also notes assumed cuts of over $1.4 trillion to Medicaid over the next decade and $400 million in cuts at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

In addition, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., announced the establishment of an Opioid Policy Steering Committee and called on his staff to identify “more forceful steps” the agency can take to confront the opioid issue.

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Keith Humphreys of Stanford University, who advised both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations on drug issues, joined other stakeholders who see the current administration’s initial instinct to cut drug funding as a troubling sign. “The administration was ultimately pressured into doing the right thing, but it remains disturbing that they ever considered walking away from responding to the opioid epidemic,” he said.