Once again, it’s all about the opioids.

Eastern New England’s representatives in Washington have been working on the opioid problem since the start of this two-year session. Even with all attention on the presidential race, and little action on Capitol Hill, those attempts continue.

Over the past two weeks, the U.S. Senate saw what might be described as two steps forward, one step back—and a separate step forward.

A bill co-authored by one area senator moved closer to passage—but without funding that another area senator tried to include. And a third area senator introduced an entirely new bill.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) was introduced last year by Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, with Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio. It is designed to let the Justice Department provide assistance to states for monitoring prescriptions and reduce overdoses.

With the topic getting more public attention—including interest from both parties’ presidential candidates as they campaigned in New Hampshire—the bill has picked up steam.

But Democrats complain that the bill fails to provide funding for the efforts. So as the bill moved toward a final vote, last week New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen tried to add a $600 million emergency funding amendment.

It needed 60 votes; it got only 48. Republicans argued that funding already provided in the omnibus budget package could be used; they suggested that the funding amendment would serve as a “poison pill” that, if adopted, would prevent the bill’s passage in the House, where Republicans are loathe to vote for any spending measure.

New Hampshire’s Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Maine’s Sen. Susan Collins were among the five Republicans who voted with Democrats.

Ayotte, who was chosen to give the official Republican weekly address, used it to boast of the CARA bill on Saturday. The legislation is expected to pass the Senate this week, and move on to the House for consideration.

The week before that happened, Sen. Elizabeth Warren came forward with a brand new bill; the Reducing Unused Medications Act. It would allow doctors to request that prescriptions of opioid painkillers be only partially filled, requiring the remainder to be filled later. Some state legislatures, including Massachusetts, have shown interest in prescription controls of this type.

Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts introduced the bill in the House at the same time. Both Warren and Clark have Republican co-sponsors from states also struggling with the crisis.

Those weren’t the only area senators speaking up on the topic.

Also in late February, Collins, who heads the Senate Aging Committee, chaired a hearing on issues relating to the use of prescription opioids by older patients. Those prescriptions, according to testimony at the hearing, may be contributing to the oversupply of opioids.

That same week Collins used an Appropriations Committee hearing to question Attorney General Loretta Lynch about the role of the black market gun trade in Maine’s heroin crisis. Collins suggested that a guns-for-drugs market is pushing heroin users to make straw gun purchases.

And Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, while relenting on the nomination of a new head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), continued to publicly criticize and demand change of attitude toward the opiate crisis.

Markey has been particularly vocal about abuse-deterrent opioids. Those are new extended-release versions of OxyContin and similar painkillers, that are believed to be resistant to abuse. To date, the FDA has approved five of the drugs, and dozens more are in development.

Some medical and consumer groups have balked, and Markey accuses the FDA of ignoring those warnings and siding with pharmaceutical companies. He put a “hold” on the nomination of Robert Califf as the new commissioner in December, but was forced to back down last month. Califf was confirmed two weeks ago—but Markey made sure to give scathing comments as he voted against that confirmation.

Conservation Grades

The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) has released its 2015 ratings, and the Senate’s two highest-scoring Republicans were the two from New England.

Collins scored 60 percent based on 25 environment-related votes taken last year. Ayotte scored 56 percent. Collins’s lifetime LCV rating is now 65 percent; Ayotte’s is 35 percent.

They were both well ahead of most Republicans, but still ran afoul of the influential public interest group on several occasions.

Ayotte, for example, voted in favor of a measure vetoed by President Barack Obama this January, that would have negated new Clean Water Act rules meant to protect drinking water from pollutants. Collins voted against that. However, the LCV docked Collins for voting against a Markey amendment that attempted to add a climate change education grant program to the education bill passed late last year. That time, it was Ayotte voting the way LCV wanted.

As for the two House Republicans from the area: they both scored in the single digits.

Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine rated 9 percent on the 35 House votes scored by LCV in 2015. Rep. Frank Guinta of New Hampshire got 6 percent.

The area’s Democrats were a different story. The only Senate Democrat from New England who didn’t score a perfect 100 was Shaheen, with 96 percent. Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut was the lowest-scoring New England House Democrat at 89 percent.