AUSTIN — Former President George H.W. Bush, his wife and other GOP members of Congress, as well as several governors and top White House officials, are joining a bipartisan call to reduce opioid addiction and abuse.
The announcement Tuesday was a rare sign of bipartisan support for the idea, which the White House says will save lives and save billions of dollars over a decade.
The bill, which has received more than $1 billion in bipartisan support, calls for treating opioid addiction as a health issue.
It’s a shift that is already taking hold.
The president, former Vice President Al Gore and Vice President Mike Pence are among the former president’s top supporters.
In a statement, Bush said, “It’s time to end the epidemic and restore our country to health and prosperity.
I am proud to join a bipartisan effort to address the epidemic that’s destroying lives and families across our country.
We will not remain silent as our country’s leaders work together to save lives.”
The bill is similar to a similar measure pushed by Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, but it has been backed by Republicans, with President Donald Trump among those backing it.
A number of Democrats also have spoken out against the bill, including Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
In addition to the presidents, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California have signed onto the measure, as have several former Cabinet members, including former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.
The measure was co-sponsored by Sens.
Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, John Cornyn of Texas, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Marco Rubio of Florida.
It was approved by the House in December.
A bipartisan group of 13 senators is working on similar legislation, which is expected to be signed into law by Trump in the coming months.
The House bill, House Resolution 532, was approved unanimously in March by the full House and Senate, with no Democratic votes.
The Senate has yet to take up the measure.
The White House has been supportive of the bill as well, with press secretary Sarah Sanders saying that the president “will be working with the House to pass this bill.”
“This is not just a bill for one day, this is a bill that we are going to be pushing forward,” Sanders said Tuesday.
The opioid epidemic has already taken a toll on Americans’ health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In 2016, the country lost more than 9.4 million people to the drug, according the CDC.
The CDC estimates that the number of Americans addicted to opioids in 2016 was more than 10.5 million.
In some states, including Texas, the number has risen.
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The number of opioid overdose deaths in Texas has increased since the epidemic began, the Texas Tribune reported.
The epidemic is particularly acute in rural areas, where opioids are a popular prescription medication, according CNN’s Jill Colvin.
“I think the public has been looking for something that would help them cope with the loss of the family, the loss the community,” Colvin said.
“This bill does that.
It will help.
And it is the right thing to do.”