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Wyden slams GOP over drug testing for jobless benefits


Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., slammed a Republican vote Tuesday to overturn a U.S. Department of Labor rule that clarified drug testing practices for state unemployment insurance programs.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Wyden called drug testing for unemployment insurance recipients in the middle of an opioid epidemic “ineffective and mean spirited.”

“If Republicans truly cared about helping those struggling with addiction, they would not be undertaking a full throttle repeal of the Affordable Care Act and cutting Medicaid funding for drug treatment programs,” Wyden said.

Under a bipartisan compromise from 2012, states can require drug testing of unemployment insurance recipients only if the unemployed individuals lost their jobs for drug-related reasons, or if they are applying for certain types of jobs that require drug testing, as defined by a Department of Labor rule finalized last year. Tuesday ‘s vote repeals the department’s rule, creating confusion for states, Wyden said.

On Monday , the Congressional Budget Office released its analysis of Trumpcare, estimating it will cut off 24 million Americans from health care coverage, including millions of Americans who currently can access substance abuse treatment through Medicaid.

“At the same time they’re working to slash funding for addiction treatment, Republicans are now dredging up an old, head-scratcher of an argument that drug testing Americans and denying them earned benefits somehow helps them overcome addiction.

“The fact is, what the majority is pushing for in this debate is light-years away from last year’s talk about helping Americans in every part of our country who are struggling with opioid addiction,” Wyden said.

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