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Rep. Abigail Spanberger. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

A bipartisan trio of lawmakers is asking Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen for latitude to use some of the president’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus package for addressing the opioid crisis.

Why it matters: The opioid crisis — America's other rampant public health emergency — appears to be getting even worse, likely exacerbated by the isolation and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Democratic Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and David Trone (D-Md.), along with Republican Rep. David McKinley of West Virginia, are teaming up in the appeal.
  • The three members represent areas heavily affected by opioid abuse.

The details: The American Rescue Plan, the administration's brand name for the stimulus package, passed through Congress but will ultimately be implemented by Treasury.

  • The department will have great latitude to define how the money can be used and how much flexibility local governments gain to spend it.
  • In a letter being sent to Yellen on Thursday morning, Spanberger, Trone and McKinley ask for flexibility to use some of the money for treatment and recovery expenses.
  • "One parent told the story of how her daughter was unable to go directly into a facility that she needed to go to because of COVID exposures, so that’s been a challenge that families face," Spanberger told Axios during an interview.

Spanberger said that if the ruling does not clarify or allow for that maximum flexibility, she's prepared to introduce legislation making it clear the stimulus money can be used for addressing substance abuse.

  • The congresswoman isn't concerned about the request being construed as a misappropriation of pandemic relief money because of the widespread scope of the opioid problem.
  • "They may not join in the choir of why this is necessary, but they'll certainly be happy when the rest of us deliver the support," she said of possible critics.

Be smart: As the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, the opioid crisis is likely to become a broader part of the national conversation again.

  • Another bipartisan group of lawmakers that includes Spanberger and Reps. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) and Randy Feenstra (R-Iowa) introduced bipartisan legislation this week to bolster the federal response to the opioid abuse crisis.

☎️ The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free and confidential support for anyone in distress, in addition to prevention and crisis resources. It's also available for an online chat.

Go deeper

Rahm Emanuel questioned on murder of Laquan McDonald in confirmation hearing

Rahm Emanuel during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on Oct. 20. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke about the murder of Laquan McDonald during his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday to become the U.S. ambassador to Japan, saying that "there's not a day or a week that has gone by in the last seven years I haven't thought about this."

Catch up quick: McDonald was a Black teenager who was fatally shot 16 times by Chicago police during Emanuel's tenure as the city's mayor. The 2014 shooting triggered massive protests, both because of its nature and the fact that the officers' body-cam footage was concealed for years.

3 hours ago - World

Biden's ambassador nominee: "China is not an Olympian power"

Nick Burns testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden's nominee to serve as ambassador to China delivered a stark assessment of the challenges the U.S. faces in confronting Beijing, but stressed that the rising superpower is "not all-powerful" and the West retains "substantial" advantages.

The big picture: Nicholas Burns, a retired career diplomat and former U.S. ambassador to NATO, used his confirmation hearing Wednesday to echo the growing bipartisan consensus that China poses "the greatest threat to the security of our country and the democratic world" in the 21st century.

Scoop: U.S. and Israel to form team to solve consulate dispute

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (right) meet in Washington. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. and Israel are planning to form a joint team to hold discreet negotiations on the reopening of the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, Israeli officials say.

Why it matters: The consulate handled relations with the Palestinians for 25 years before being shut down by then President Donald Trump in 2019. Senior officials in Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government see the consulate issue as a political hot potato that could destabilize their unwieldy coalition.