BY JILL COLVIN
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s drug commission is drawing new criticism after it missed a second self-imposed deadline.
Twenty Senate Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, have written to the acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy urging him to “consider important initiatives that could help deliver faster relief to millions of Americans.”
“As the Commission is taking steps to address drug addiction, we are concerned that essential components, such as action on already existing recommendations, are being delayed,” they wrote.
The letter to Richard Baum comes after the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, which is chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, pushed back its deadline to release an interim report for a second time.
The signees are urging the Trump administration to do more to combat the opioid epidemic, including implementing recommendations put forward by former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in a November 2016 report.
The group is also criticizing an administration budget proposal that would cut nearly $400 million in funding for drug and mental health programs and the Department of Justice’s escalating focus on treating drug addiction as a criminal justice issue.
“For the millions of Americans currently suffering from addiction or abuse, another day could be a matter of life or death,” they wrote.
The White House referred questions to the Office of the National Drug Control Policy, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Christie said earlier this week that he’d asked for an extension because of the outpouring of public comments the commission had received after its first public meeting.
“I asked for an extension because we got over 8,000 public comments after our first public meeting and I did not think it was appropriate not to review all of those public comments, and to the extent necessary, address some of them in the interim report,” he said.
The commission was supposed to submit its interim report within 90 days of the March 29 order that established the commission.
Christie made fighting drug addiction a cornerstone of his 2016 presidential campaign and has dedicated his last year in office to the issue.
“It’s unfortunate there are some who want to make addiction and the nation’s opioid crisis a partisan issue,” said Christie Press Secretary Brian Murray. “This type of rhetoric simply has no place in the important mission we have undertaken.”
The letter’s signees include Sens. Dianne Feinstein, Sherrod Brown, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker.
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