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U.S. Senate lawmakers on Tuesday added legislation targeting transnational criminal organizations trafficking fentanyl into American communities to their version of the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina introduced the “Fentanyl Eradication and Narcotics Deterrence Off Fentanyl Act,” a standalone anti-fentanyl trafficking legislation aimed toward the financial assets of several major Mexican Cartel organizations involved with synthetic opioid traffickers and suppliers.
“Mexican traffickers and Chinese drug suppliers are fueling America’s fentanyl crisis,” Scott told The Daily Wire in a statement.
According to the bill, U.S. government agencies could enhance current laws to disrupt illicit opioid supply chains and penalize those facilitating the trafficking of fentanyl. The bill would also aim to hold accountable imposed sanctions on the illicit drug trade and on those who profit from the transactions through money laundering schemes.
Fentanyl overdoses have become the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 18-45 in the last few years, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
More than 107,000 Americans died in 2021 from violence and drug overdoses tied to two major Mexican drug cartels — the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation criminal organizations, DEA Administrator Anne Milgram told Republican members of a House Appropriations Committee panel during a budget hearing earlier this year.
Nearly 65% of overdose deaths were caused by fentanyl.
Milgram called both organizations “the greatest drug threat this country has ever faced.”
“The drug cartels responsible for bringing fentanyl into this country are ruthless and extremely violent criminal enterprises,” Milgram said. “They rely on a global supply chain to manufacture and distribute fentanyl, and they rely on a global illicit financial network to pocket billions of dollars.”
DEA officials mapped out the multi-faceted fentanyl crisis three years ago as the flow of the deadly opioid became more diverse compared to its start in 2014. According to the agency, Mexico and China are the primary sources, along with India, for fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances trafficked directly into the United States.
DEA officials seized over 379 million deadly doses of fentanyl last year, enough to supply a lethal dose to every American.
“Given the sharp increase in fentanyl-caused deaths, it is clear that a staggering amount of fentanyl is making its way into our country from the chemical suppliers in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and drug cartels in Mexico,” Scott’s new release said.
“By including this bill in the NDAA, we’re one step closer to ensuring our country can defend our communities from this deadly drug and protecting our national security,” he added.
U.S. Senators are set to vote on the defense policy bill this week, which has amassed at least 62 Senate cosponsors since lawmakers first introduced the legislation in April.
The GOP-led House passed its version of the annual NDAA on Thursday with key conservative provisions that face long odds in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
House lawmakers passed the bill along partisan lines in a 219-210 vote, which included amendments that prohibited funding Pentagon funding for travel for women seeking abortions and paying for transgender procedures on military service members.
Leif Le Mahieu contributed to this report.