Sen. Baldwin urges passage of bill to fight 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, co-sponsored by Wisconsin Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, would target the supply chains for those lethal drugs.

“Fentanyl overdoses and poisonings have taken the lives of far too many Wisconsinites, leaving families with an empty seat at the dinner table and communities devastated,” Baldwin said in an emailed statement. “I introduced the FEND OFF Fentanyl Act to crack down on the suppliers in China and traffickers in Mexico that are fueling this epidemic, and urge my colleagues in [the] House to pass our bill so we can stop these deadly drugs from coming into our communities.”

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.

An Ashland, Wisconsin, parent who asked that her name not be used praised Baldwin in an emailed statement for supporting the legislation: “Two years ago, in June, I tragically lost my daughter to fentanyl. She was only thirty-nine and left behind four sons. Now, as I care for my grandchildren, I am deeply grateful for Senator Baldwin’s work to stop dangerous drugs like fentanyl from coming into our country and make sure no other parent or child has to face similar devastation.”

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.

Baldwin announced her support for the bill in May 2023.

“I’ve heard from countless Wisconsinites who have lost friends, family, neighbors, and loved ones to fentanyl overdoses and poisoning. We must fight this deadly epidemic on all fronts, including disrupting the supply chains that traffic fentanyl into our communities,” Baldwin said in a press release at the time. “I am working with Republicans and Democrats to combat this deadly pandemic to keep Wisconsin communities safe.” 

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, 1,461 Wisconsinites died from opioid-related causes in 2022, up 18.7% over 2020. The 4.7% of Wisconsin adults over the age of 18 estimated to have misused opioids was higher than the 4.1% national average. 

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.

Baldwin has backed other efforts to address the opioid crisis.

In 2016, she authored the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama, to tighten guidelines on opioid prescriptions for patients by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Baldwin proposed a bill in 2022 to increase education about and access to anti-overdose medications like naloxone, parts of which became law

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

This January, Baldwin introduced the Stop Fentanyl at the Border Act to increase screening at ports of entry along the southwest border, the most common entry point. The bill is awaiting action in the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

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. Baldwin is one of 68 Senate co-sponsors. 

Wisconsin’s other senator, Republican Ron Johnson, is not a co-sponsor and was one of 29 senators to vote against the spending package that included it.

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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