House Passes Blue Dog-Endorsed, Bipartisan Fentanyl Sanctions Act as Part of NDAA
WASHINGTON—Today, the House passed the bipartisan Fentanyl Sanctions Act, which was included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report. The Senate is expected to take up the legislation soon to send to the President’s desk for a signature. The Fentanyl Sanctions Act was endorsed by the Blue Dog Coalition earlier this year, and it would apply pressure on the Chinese government to honor its commitment to make all forms of fentanyl illegal and provide the United States more tools and resources to go after illicit traffickers in China, Mexico, and other countries.
The House version of the Fentanyl Sanctions Act was introduced by Blue Dog Co-Chair for Whip, Rep. Anthony Brindisi (NY-22) and Blue Dog member, Rep. Max Rose (NY-11), in addition to Republican Reps. French Hill (AR-02) and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01).
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is approved for use as a painkiller and anesthetic. It is 50 times more potent than heroin. In 2013, synthetic opioid deaths—primarily driven by illicit fentanyl—began to spike, further worsening the opioid epidemic. From 2013 to 2016, drug overdoses involving synthetic opioids increased by about 113 percent each year. According to the DEA, foreign-sourced fentanyl is being trafficked into the U.S. primarily from China and Mexico. This year, a 60 Minutes report revealed how the Chinese synthetic opioid industry has been able to funnel illicit fentanyl into the U.S., fueling a fentanyl epidemic.
In 2017, 70,237 Americans died of a drug overdose, the majority of which involved opioids. That same year, foreign-sourced fentanyl and fentanyl-related compounds killed more Americans than all other illicit drugs.
“When it comes to keeping our kids safe and our streets free from fentanyl and fentanyl-laced heroin, there's no place for politics and partisanship,” said Congressman Rose, a member of the Blue Dog Coalition. “The Fentanyl Sanctions Act will finally put these Chinese manufacturers on notice that the days of flooding our streets with fentanyl without consequence are over. Proud to see this moving to the President’s desk to be signed into law.”
“Too many families have been ripped apart by fentanyl in New York. It’s clear we must do more to get these drugs off our streets,” said Congressman Brindisi, Blue Dog Co-Chair for Whip. “I am proud to include this bipartisan solution to impose effective sanctions on illicit fentanyl manufacturers and give law enforcement the tools and resources they need to stop these deadly drugs from entering our country. We cannot wait any longer. I hope the President signs this bill and helps us get tough on Chinese fentanyl.”
Specifically, the legislation would:
- Require imposition of sanctions on drug manufacturers in China who knowingly provide synthetic opioids to traffickers, transnational criminal organizations like those in Mexico who mix fentanyl with other drugs and traffic them into the U.S. and financial institutions that assist such entities. Waivers would be provided for countries that take sufficient action to implement and enforce regulations on synthetic opioid production.
- Authorize new funding to law enforcement and intelligence agencies, including the Departments of Treasury, Department of Defense and Department of State, to combat the foreign trafficking of synthetic opioids.
- Urge the President to commence diplomatic efforts with U.S. partners to establish multilateral sanctions against foreign synthetic opioid traffickers.
- Establish a Commission on Synthetic Opioid Trafficking to monitor U.S. efforts and report on how to more effectively combat the flow of synthetic opioids from China, Mexico and elsewhere.
Following a commitment to the U.S. at the G-20 in December 2018, Chinese regulators announced on April 1, 2019, that a wider range of fentanyl derivatives would be declared controlled substances in China on May 1, 2019.
China has struggled to enforce its current drug laws and continues to deny that its illicit fentanyl producers are a major source of the illicit opioids contributing to the U.S. opioid crisis. To ensure accountability, the bipartisan sanctions legislation would pressure the Chinese government to move forward with an aggressive plan to enforce its announced new laws and provide the U.S. executive branch with flexible new sanction tools to go after actors, from manufacturers to traffickers, in China and other countries.