ICYMI: Senate Passes Blue Dog-Endorsed Fentanyl Sanctions Act

Jun 28, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON—Following yesterday’s Senate passage of the bipartisan Fentanyl Sanctions Act, the Blue Dogs are calling on the House to do the same. The legislation 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. In the Senate, the legislation was included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020, which passed by a vote of 86-8.


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. Recently, 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.


“China is the leading producer of the fentanyl that is killing our children and tearing apart our communities—we have to hold them accountable, plain and simple,” Congressman Max Rose (NY-11) said. “China may say that they’re cracking down on illicit fentanyl production, but that doesn’t mean we should trust them. I’m encouraged to see the Senate act, now the House must do the same.”


“Too many families have been ripped apart by the opioid epidemic and the time to act is now,” said Rep. Anthony Brindisi (NY-22), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Whip. “This legislation, supported by Democrats and Republicans, will hold China accountable and give law enforcement the tools they need to crack down on this deadly drug entering our country. The Senate had the courage to act and now the House must do the same.”


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.