Sen. Casey 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 Pennsylvania Democratic U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman, would target the supply chains for those lethal drugs.

“We’re standing here today announcing, or reminding folks, that it’s through the Senate, but we have to get it through the House,” Casey said at a Feb. 26 press conference in Scranton. “It’s just not good enough for a politician, in either party, to say you want to stop fentanyl trafficking, you want to finally take the steps that we need to take to stop fentanyl at the border or anywhere else. That’s not good enough. Talk is cheap here. You have to vote for FEND Off Fentanyl and vote for the investments and the screening technology at the border.”

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 Pennsylvania Office of Drug Surveillance and Misuse Prevention, 5,158 Pennsylvanians died from drug overdoses in 2022. Of those, 84.4% were opioid-related and 78.4% 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.

“My beloved son, Zack, died of fentanyl poisoning, and our lives were shattered,” Peggy Heidish, a parent from Edgewood, Pennsylvania, said at a Feb. 19 press conference with Casey in support of the legislation, according to an email sent by Casey’s office. “It’s a battle to go for anybody to make it through recovery. But the presence of this poison, this fentanyl, makes it even harder to win that battle. He was trying so hard to get free of what I now understand is a terrible and difficult disease to battle. … No one makes it through recovery when they’re dead.”

Janet Morrison-Heberling of Pine, Pennsylvania, said at the same event that her daughter died from a fentanyl overdose in 2022: “She was my only child, and obviously, part of my heart and soul are gone with her. I’ll never have a new picture of her again. And she was a beautiful person, and she was way more than her drug addiction. I am so proud to be a part of the positive things to come as a result of this act. …Today I can say, Sen. Casey showed us he is a man of his word.”

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.

Casey announced his support for the bill in May 2023.

“In order to combat the opioid epidemic ravaging Pennsylvania communities, we must stop the flow of fentanyl onto our streets,” he said in a press release that September. “We need to crack down on the Chinese producers of synthetic fentanyl and the Mexican cartels that bring it across the border by hitting them where it hurts—their bottom line. There’s too much at stake for Pennsylvania communities to not get this done.”

Casey has backed other efforts to address the opioid crisis.

In 2017, he co-sponsored the bipartisan STOP Act, which expanded the U.S. Postal Service’s data tracking to curb drug smuggling, and the bipartisan INTERDICT Act, which funded fentanyl screening devices for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Both bills were signed into law by President Donald Trump.

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.

This January, Casey introduced the Stop Fentanyl at the Border Act, which would 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. Casey and Fetterman 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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