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The Oklahoman: Oklahoma congressman says President Obama needs funding source for budget proposals

February 9, 2016
News Stories

The Oklahoman - Chris Casteel

Rep. Tom Cole, an influential voice in spending on health and medical research, said President Barack Obama should come up with a way to pay for his new budget proposals, including one to expand treatment for people addicted to opioids.

Obama is planning to send his 2017 budget to Capitol Hill on Tuesday. And though the budget as a whole will get scant deliberation, some of his individual proposals may be considered.

Cole, R-Moore, heads the subcommittee that oversees spending at the Health and Human Services Department.

In the current budget, his panel boosted funding by $1 billion for the National Institutes of Health, some of it earmarked for Alzheimer's disease research; his subcommittee also increased spending by $300 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Obama last week proposed $1.1 billion in spending to fight the "epidemic" in abuse of heroin and prescription painkillers.

According to the White House:

•$920 million would support cooperative agreements with states to expand medication-assisted treatment for disorders related to opioid use. States could use the money "to expand treatment capacity and make services more affordable."

•Another $50 million would be channeled through the National Health Service Corps to expand access to treatment centers.

Cole said, "While I believe that this is a worthy goal to work toward, I am very concerned about how the president intends to pay for it.

"Unless the increased spending is offset with real reductions made elsewhere in the budget or through serious entitlement reform, I do not believe it can or should be viewed as a responsible proposal. While I think it is possible to work together to find solutions, it cannot and should not be achieved by increasing overall spending.”

Obama's budget also is expected to include $1.8 billion to fight the Zika virus spreading from South America. Cole's subcommittee likely will have jurisdiction over at least part of that proposal.

Online: The Oklahoman