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Photo: Spencer Platt / Getty Images

The federal response to the opioid epidemic is entering a new phase of intensity. Both the Trump administration and members of Congress announced new steps yesterday that could make a real difference in both law enforcement and public health.

The Justice Department announced that it will try to join a lawsuit, led by several state and local governments, against drugmakers and distributors that sell or sold prescription opioids.

  • This is a big deal. This lawsuit is modeled after the tobacco litigation of the '90s, accusing drugmakers of pushing painkillers too aggressively and failing to take action when they proved dangerously addictive.
  • By joining the litigation, DOJ could up the total award, if the governments win their case. “We will seek to hold accountable those whose illegality has cost us billions of taxpayer dollars,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said yesterday.
  • The White House is also planning to roll out more policy proposals on Thursday.

On Capitol Hill, Sens. Rob Portman and Sheldon Whitehouse introduced the sequel to the opioids bill they helped pass in 2016. It would provide $1 billion per year in federal funding and include new policy limits such as a three-day maximum on new opioid prescriptions.

  • Three days matches the most restrictive limit pursued in the states. Kentucky adopted a three-day cap last year, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott wants one, too.

Notable: It’ll likely take more than $1 billion, but Portman and Whitehouse also say they want to enhance the government’s focus on recovery. So far, public resources have mostly been focused on immediate treatment as the death toll from overdoses continues to rise.

  • "We know the recovery programs are essential to winning this battle. That if you just have short-term treatment — detox, short-term treatment — that the success rate is very low. If you have longer-term recovery, the success rate is higher," Portman tells my colleague Caitlin Owens.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Mexican President López Obrador tests positive for coronavirus

Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador during a press conference at National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, on Wednesday. Photo: Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced Sunday evening that he's tested positive for COVID-19.

Driving the news: López Obrador tweeted that he has mild symptoms and is receiving medical treatment. "As always, I am optimistic," he added. "We will all move forward."

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor of Arkansas

Sarah Huckabee Sanders at FOX News' studios in New York City in 2019. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will announce Monday that she's running for governor of Arkansas.

The big picture: Sanders was touted as a contender after it was announced she was leaving the Trump administration in June 2019. Then-President Trump tweeted he hoped she would run for governor, adding "she would be fantastic." Sanders is "seen as leader in the polls" in the Republican state, notes the Washington Post's Josh Dawsey, who first reported the news.

Coronavirus has inflamed global inequality

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

History will likely remember the pandemic as the "first time since records began that inequality rose in virtually every country on earth at the same time." That's the verdict from Oxfam's inequality report covering the year 2020 — a terrible year that hit the poorest, hardest across the planet.

Why it matters: The world's poorest were already in a race against time, facing down an existential risk in the form of global climate change. The coronavirus pandemic could set global poverty reduction back as much as a full decade, according to the World Bank.