WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) today joined a bipartisan group of colleagues led by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) to announced the passage of the 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 to 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. 

“Our country has been ravaged by the opioid epidemic,” Senator Capito said. 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.”   

“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,” Senator Schumer said. “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,” Senator Cotton said. “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.” 

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 Department 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 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.  

Other cosponsors include Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Senator Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Ranking Member Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Senate Committee on the Judiciary Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) 

Read more about the bill here.


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