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Cotton, Schumer, Colleagues Announce Senate Passage Of Fentanyl Sanctions Act

June 27, 2019

Contact Caroline Tabler or James Arnold (202) 224-2353

Washington, D.C. - Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Chuck Schumer (D-New York), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania), Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia), Gary Peters (D-Michigan), Dianne Feinstein (D-California), and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) 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.

"The Chinese government is the world's largest drug dealer," said Cotton. "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."

"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 Schumer. "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."

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 Cotton, Schumer, 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.