Schumer, Cotton, Brown, Rubio, Menendez, Toomey, And Shaheen Introduce First-Ever Targeted Fentanyl Sanctions Bill To Hold Chinese Government Accountable On Their Commitment To Crack Down On Manufacturers And Traffickers Of Lethal Opioids Ravaging U.S. Communities

April 4, 2019

Following Chinese Regulators Announcing That A Wider Range Of Fentanyl Derivatives Would Be Declared Controlled Substances in China on May 1st.; Bipartisan Group Of Senators Introduce Sanctions Legislation That Would Pressure China to Enforce This New Law, Direct The Administration To Identify Foreign Traffickers Of Opioids On An Annual Basis, Authorize New Funding To Law Enforcement And Intelligence Agencies

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 Work With The U.S. To Enforce Its Announced Chinese Regulations

Senators Schumer, Cotton, Brown, Rubio, Menendez, Toomey, And Shaheen: China Must Be Held Accountable For Its Commitment To Regulate Fentanyl

Washington, D.C. – In light of the dramatic rise in devastating fentanyl overdose deaths, 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), Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today introduced the Fentanyl Sanctions Act— the first-ever fentanyl sanctions bill— that would apply pressure on the Chinese government to honor their commitment to make all fentanyl illegal and provide the U.S. with more tools and resources to go after illicit traffickers in China, Mexico, and other countries. 

“Combating the flow of illicit fentanyl into our country is imperative in the fight to save American lives from the opioid crisis.  We must hold China accountable for their role in the fentanyl trade. China’s new regulation to make all fentanyl categories illegal is an important step and the administration deserves praise for their efforts to secure this change. However, we have to demonstrate that we will demand China enforce these laws and take strong action against opioid traffickers,” said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). “Our legislation would apply pressure on China to actually follow through and would equip the administration with tools to systematically go after the major manufacturers and traffickers of fentanyl before the killer drug gets to the U.S.”

“China is the world’s largest drug dealer. For years, the Chinese government has allowed fentanyl and other synthetic opioids to pour into the United States, killing tens of thousands of Americans. Although China has fulfilled a promise to the president by formally banning all forms of fentanyl, we have to make sure they keep their word. Our bipartisan bill will give law enforcement and intelligence agencies the tools they need to apply maximum pressure to fentanyl producers, traffickers, cartels, and other criminals who are funneling this poison across our borders and into our communities,” said Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR).

“On average, 11 Ohioans will die every day in my state due to an opioid overdose,” said Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-OH). “The addiction epidemic has taken too many lives and caused too much devastation in Ohio. This new bill will add effective new sanctions tools to help combat the flood of illicit fentanyl coming in primarily from China and from Mexico, and help provide intelligence and funding to keep these dangerous drugs out of Ohio communities.”

“The flow of illicit fentanyl largely from China into the U.S. poses serious threats to our families, public health, economic vitality, and national security,” said Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). “With Florida suffering thousands of opioid-related deaths per year, we must do all we can to stop the opioid crisis sweeping across America and devastating our communities. This bipartisan effort to impose targeted sanctions on foreign illicit fentanyl manufacturers and traffickers makes clear that the U.S. will hold the Communist Chinese Government and other nations fully accountable when they turn a blind eye to international fentanyl trafficking.”

“Fentanyl is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans, and untold numbers of ruined lives, addicts, and wrecked families and communities. Along with other opioids, fentanyl killed nearly 2,800 people in New Jersey in 2017. It is critical that we bring an end to this scourge - most of which flows into this country from China - and do so with tough and consistent enforcement and a genuine whole-of-government effort. The legislation we are introducing today is a significant step forward to bring to an end the production and shipping of fentanyl into the United States,” said Senate Foreign Relations Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-NJ).

“Illicit fentanyl has inflicted severe suffering on Pennsylvania families and communities. I am committed to holding those responsible for exporting this poison to our country. Congressional attention coupled with pressure from the Trump administration recently led to China finally subjecting all fentanyl-like chemicals to its drug laws. This bipartisan measure provides Congress with another tool to fight the heroin and fentanyl epidemic,” said Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA).

“The introduction of fentanyl into New Hampshire’s illicit drug supply was akin to pouring gasoline on an already raging crisis,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). “Fentanyl continues to take loved ones struggling with substance use disorders from every community in New Hampshire. We know where fentanyl is coming from and there needs to be more done at the federal level to stop it. This legislation cracks down on fentanyl manufacturers and their financial sponsors by inflicting painful sanctions, and ramps up support for federal enforcement efforts. Bipartisan cooperation continues to be absolutely necessary to tackling this crisis and this legislation is an important next step for Congress to take.”

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. 
  • 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 opioids.
  • Urge the President to commence diplomatic efforts with U.S. partners to establish multilateral sanctions against foreign 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 already has problems enforcing its current drug laws and continues to deny that its illicit fentanyl producers are a major source of illicit opioids contributing to the U.S. opioid crisis. To ensure accountability, Senators Schumer, Cotton, Brown, Rubio, Menendez, Toomey, and Shaheen’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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