Schumer, Cotton, Bipartisan Cosponsors Announce Senate Passage Of Fentanyl Sanctions Act, The First-Ever Bill To Hold China’s Government Accountable For Commitment To Crack Down On Illicit Trafficking And Provide More Tools To Combat Synthetic Opioid Trafficking

June 27, 2019

Bipartisan Fentanyl Sanctions Act, Included In Senate National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) For Fiscal Year 2020, Would Direct The Trump Administration To Identify And Sanction Foreign Traffickers Of Synthetic Opioids On An Annual Basis, Authorize New Funding For Law Enforcement And Intelligence Agencies’ Sanctions Efforts, And Pressure China, Mexico, And Other Synthetic Opioid Trafficking Countries To Crack Down On Traffickers 

Dramatic Rise In Fentanyl Overdose Deaths Represents The Newest And Most Devastating Wave Of The Opioid Epidemic— China Is The World’s Largest Producer Of Illicit Fentanyl And Currently Lacks The Capacity To Enforce Their Promise To Regulate Fentanyl; New Legislation Would Pressure China To Move Forward With An Aggressive Plan And Help U.S. Go After Illicit Traffickers 

Senate Democrats And Republicans: China Must Be Held Accountable For Its Commitment To Regulate Deadly Fentanyl

Washington, D.C. – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID), Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Ranking Member Gary Peters (D-MI), Senate Committee on the Judiciary Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) today announced the passage of the bipartisan Fentanyl Sanctions Act, part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020, which passed the Senate this afternoon by a vote of 86-8.

The senators’ bill would hold China and other countries accountable for their commitments to crack down on producers and traffickers of fentanyl and other deadly synthetic opioids, pushing China’s government to honor their commitment to enforce new laws declaring all fentanyl derivatives illegal. Additionally, the legislation would provide the U.S. government with more tools and resources to sanction illicit traffickers from China, Mexico, and other countries—a critical effort, in light of the steep rise in devastating fentanyl overdose deaths.

“We must hold China, currently the world’s largest producer of illicit fentanyl, accountable for its role in the trade of this deadly drug. Our Senate-passed, bipartisan sanctions bill will do just that,” said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).  “The opioid crisis has claimed tens of thousands of lives and devastated families and communities across the country. In New York state, from November 2017 to 2018, approximately 2,000 people died from an opioid overdose. About 1,500 of those deaths were from synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Our legislation is critical in this fight to save American lives, and I hope to announce soon that this bill will be signed into law.”

“The Chinese government is the world’s largest drug dealer,” said Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR). “China has allowed fentanyl and other synthetic opioids to pour into the United States for years, killing tens of thousands of Americans. Our law enforcement and intelligence agencies need additional resources to target the fentanyl producers, traffickers, cartels, and other criminals who are funneling this poison across our borders and into our communities. I’m pleased that this year’s NDAA includes our bipartisan amendment to give law enforcement critical tools to stop this scourge and hold China accountable.”

“On average, 14 Ohioans will die every day in Ohio due to an opioid overdose,” said Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-OH). “The addiction crisis has taken too many lives and caused too much devastation in Ohio. This bill will add effective new sanctions tools to help combat the flood of illicit fentanyl coming into the U.S. primarily from China and Mexico, and help provide intelligence and funding to keep these dangerous drugs out of Ohio communities.”

“There is not a single state, and not a single community, in our country that is not impacted in some way by the deadly export from China of fentanyl and its over one thousand synthetic analogues,” said Senate Committee on  Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID). “While China only recently agreed to the administration’s demand to prohibit all fentanyl clones through necessary regulation, this bill provides important new authorities to curb fentanyl exports by targeting those who manufacture these insidious drugs and those who facilitate or finance them. We must hold the Chinese government accountable for the fentanyl illicitly made in and exported from its country and this bill will do precisely that.”

“Fentanyl has been pouring into our country, devastating our communities every day for the past five years. In 2018 alone, a record 3,163 New Jerseyans died of opioid-related overdoses including prescription pain killers, heroin and fentanyl,” said Senate Foreign Relations Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-NJ). “But despite our continued efforts to increase security at our ports, the fact is we need the cooperation from other countries if we’re going to have any chance at stopping this epidemic. We cannot simply take China’s word for it when they say they’ll crack down on fentanyl manufacturers—especially when American lives are at stake. With this legislation, we are sending a clear message to the Chinese government—and any other country that decides to turn a blind eye to fentanyl production—that says your actions will have consequences. I am proud to partner with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to take this important step forward in our fight to end the scourge of opioid addiction.”

“I’m pleased the bipartisan Fentanyl Sanctions Act was included in the Senate’s National Defense Authorization Act,” said Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA). “Providing our government with a tool to sanction illicit opioid manufacturers, cartels, and the banks that finance them can only help to combat the flow of deadly fentanyl into our country. The fight is not over, though. We also must hold foreign governments, like China, accountable if they fall short in fighting illicit fentanyl exports.”

“Today’s bipartisan vote shows that Congress is serious about combating the ongoing opioid crisis impacting families and communities across our nation,” said Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). “As we work to counter the flow of illicit fentanyl from China, I’m proud to have worked with many of my Senate colleagues on this legislation in order to hold accountable foreign illicit fentanyl manufacturers and traffickers who are destroying the lives of Americans.”

“More than 80 percent of the total drug overdose deaths in New Hampshire in 2018 were due to fentanyl or fentanyl combined with other drugs. This crisis should have Congress’ undivided attention,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). “As our law enforcement and first responders tackle this crisis from the front lines, it’s critical that Congress back them up with the resources they need, and that the U.S. government take meaningful action to hold traffickers and their sponsors to account by imposing sanctions and increasing enforcement. Passing this legislation is a big step forward. This is a first-of-its kind bill that has full-throated bipartisan support, and I’ll keep working to push this effort through Congress and deliver it to the President’s desk.”

“The flow of illicit fentanyl from China to the United States has been a death sentence for thousands of Massachusetts residents,”  said Senator Ed Markey (D-MA). “This scourge must end. We should use every diplomatic tool to hold China accountable for their role in the opioid overdose crisis. I thank my colleagues for their partnership in getting this provision passed and will continue to encourage the Trump administration to use its authority to ensure China follows through on its commitments to stem the flow of fentanyl.”

“Our country has been ravaged by the opioid epidemic,” said Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). For my state of West Virginia, it’s been particularly deadly, and I refuse to let drug traffickers profit from American deaths. This bill will put increased pressure on the Chinese government and hold them accountable on their promise to crack down on fentanyl distributors. I’m proud to join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for this important step in drug interdiction.”  

“The opioid epidemic has ravaged communities in Michigan and across the country,” said Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Ranking Member Gary Peters (D-MI). “China’s unwillingness to crack down on the producers and distributors flooding our communities with deadly synthetic opioids like fentanyl has contributed to thousands of overdose deaths in the United States. I’m pleased the Senate passed this important bipartisan provision to stop illicit fentanyl from entering our country and hold the producers of this lethal substance accountable for their role in this devastating public health crisis.”

“This the most serious and potentially dangerous drug I have seen. It must be closely and carefully constrained,” said Senate Committee on the Judiciary Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). “It’s unacceptable that many foreign chemical producers continue to facilitate the illicit fentanyl trade. We must make clear that our country will not tolerate the trafficking of opioids in any way.”

“The fentanyl crisis needs to be addressed at all ports of entry,” said Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). “China is complicit in allowing illicit trafficking to occur and needs to pay the price for its role in fueling the opioid epidemic. This bipartisan effort demonstrates that we are a united front when it comes to stopping the opioid epidemic.”

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, Senators Schumer, Cotton, Brown, Crapo, Menendez, Toomey, Rubio, Shaheen, Cornyn, Markey, Capito, Peters, Feinstein, and Blackburn’s 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. Read more about the bill here.

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