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.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 19,189,737 — Total deaths: 716,669 — Total recoveries — 11,610,192Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 4,917,050 — Total deaths: 160,702 — Total recoveries: 1,598,624 — Total tests: 59,652,675Map.
  3. Politics: White House recommends Trump issue executive orders on coronavirus aid.
  4. Education: Cuomo says all New York schools can reopen for in-person learning.
  5. Public health: Surgeon general urges flu shots to prevent "double whammy" with coronavirus.
  6. World: Africa records over 1 million coronavirus cases — Gates Foundation puts $150 million behind coronavirus vaccine production.

White House recommends Trump issue executive orders on coronavirus aid

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin (L) and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows speak to the media on Capitol Hill. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said President Trump should sign executive orders unilaterally addressing coronavirus stimulus spending after negotiations with congressional Democrats stalled again on Friday.

Why it matters: Friday was viewed as a self-imposed deadline to negotiate a new relief bill. But after an intense week of negotiations on Capitol Hill, White House and Democratic leadership failed to reach a deal on delivering much needed aid to Americans and businesses.

Counterintelligence chief: Russia aiming to “denigrate” Biden ahead of election

William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, before Congress in 2018. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director William Evanina said Friday that the Russian government is "using a range of measures" to "denigrate former Vice President Biden" before the November election.

Why it matters: Evanina warned that some Kremlin-linked actors are trying to support President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television, while others are spreading false claims about corruption to undermine Biden and the Democratic Party.