Sen. Tester urges passage of bill to crack down on fentanyl supply chains and traffickers - TAI News
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Drug overdose deaths have risen sharply in the United States in recent years, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, with fentanyl and other synthetic opioids responsible for about two-thirds of those cases. A bipartisan bill, the Fentanyl Eradication and Narcotics Deterrence (FEND) Off Fentanyl Act, the co-sponsors of which include Montana Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and Republican Sen. Steve Daines, would target the supply chains for those lethal drugs.

“We have a fentanyl crisis that is impacting communities all across our state, and Montana law enforcement have told me they need additional resources to get these deadly drugs off our streets,” said Tester in a Feb. 20 press statement. “My bipartisan bill will put more tools in the toolbox for our men and women in law enforcement by declaring the fentanyl crisis a national emergency, and it will hit China and the criminal organizations that traffic this filth in their wallets. It’s time for the House to take up this commonsense, bipartisan bill and get it to the President’s desk for his signature.”

The bill, designed to keep fentanyl and other illicit opioid drugs out of the country, was approved by the U.S. Senate on Feb. 13 as part of a broader emergency spending bill. The White House has endorsed that package, but House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) is refusing to allow a vote on it in his chamber.

According to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, 202 Montanans died from drug overdoses in 2022. Of those, 113 were opioid-related and 95 involved fentanyl.

Of the roughly 106,000 American deaths from drug overdoses in 2021, more than 70,000 (about 66%) involved fentanyl or other non-methadone synthetic opioids.

“Fentanyl is destroying families and communities across Montana,” a Montana law enforcement official said in a statement provided by Tester’s office. “I am thankful that Senator Tester is supporting this legislation, which will ensure that law enforcement can go after the Mexican drug cartels and other criminal organizations responsible for trafficking fentanyl and other dangerous drugs across our border and to our state and will continue to work with him to keep Montana safe.”

The bill’s provisions would officially designate international fentanyl trafficking a national emergency, require the federal government to impose economic sanctions against drug cartels and criminal organizations involved in trafficking, and authorize the Treasury Department to crack down on fentanyl-related money launderers.

Tester announced his support for the bill in April 2023 and has backed other efforts to address the opioid crisis.

As chair of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, he shepherded 2023 appropriations laws that included funding for improved fentanyl detection technologies.

In October 2023, he and seven other Senate Democrats wrote to President Joe Biden in support of additional border security funding to stop fentanyl smuggling.

The FEND Off Fentanyl Act, introduced by Republican South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, has been endorsed by several groups representing first responders and law enforcement officers. Tester and Daines are two of 68 Senate co-sponsors. 

At a January hearing of the Senate Banking Committee, Scott blamed the GOP-controlled U.S. House of Representatives for not getting the bill to Biden’s desk in 2023: “And unfortunately, we’re here today having another hearing on FEND Off Fentanyl because our friends on the other side of the Capitol, because of the shenanigans at the end of last year, did not get the bill included in legislation that would have made this, I believe, law already. It is incredibly unfortunate that playing politics is still a game played in Washington, especially on something so important. … it’s not just frustrating to those of us on this committee, those of us in Congress, it is incredibly frustrating to the people of our country who watch the devastation eat away at their communities.”

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