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Ernst, Kaine, Bice, Carbajal Introduce Bill to Combat Threat of Fentanyl

Bipartisan, Bicameral Effort Counters National Security Threat of Illicit Drug Trafficking from Mexico

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA), members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, are leading a bipartisan effort directing increased federal attention to fentanyl trafficking by utilizing the tools of the Department of Defense (DoD) and involving Mexico as an active partner to combat this crisis and disrupt Mexican cartel activity.

Representatives Stephanie Bice (R-OK) and Salud Carbajal (D-CA) are leading this effort in the House of Representatives.

Fentanyl is a leading cause of death for Americans aged 18-45, and an estimated 196 Americans are dying every single day due to fentanyl, which is about the equivalent of the death total on 9/11 every 15 days.

90% of fentanyl flows through our Southern border. U.S.-Mexican cooperation on drug trafficking has faced significant challenges since Andrés Manuel López Obrador became president in 2018. Between Fiscal Year 2017 and 2021, fentanyl trafficking offenses increased 950%.

“Fentanyl freely flowing across our border and into our communities has put Americans at the mercy of the cartels,” Senator Joni Ernst said. “As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I’m using my oversight authority of the Department of Defense to stem the fentanyl crisis at its source: Mexican transnational criminal organizations. The amount of lives lost in Iowa and across the country due to this deadly drug has far surpassed the federal government’s response, and we must scale immediately to combat this national security threat. This bipartisan work will engage Mexico as an active partner to counter fentanyl trafficking and put the Pentagon’s tools to use to save American lives.”

“Families across Virginia have lost mothers, fathers, children, siblings, and other loved ones to the substance use epidemic. And they’re not alone—every family in America has been impacted in one way or another by this crisis,” Senator Tim Kaine said. “If we want to prevent future tragedies, the United States must work with Mexico to counter fentanyl trafficking across our Southern border. This bipartisan, commonsense bill would help us create the strongest strategy for how to do that.” 

“The amount of fentanyl seized in March is the equivalent of more than 645 million lethal doses,” Representative Stephanie Bice said. “Under the Biden Administration, this deadly drug is seeping into our nation and killing Americans at catastrophic rates. The Disrupt Fentanyl Trafficking Act of 2023 will further empower the Department of Defense to take steps to halt cartel trafficking. I will continue to work to keep American communities safe and end the humanitarian crisis at the southern border. I appreciate the support of my colleagues and Senator Ernst on this important legislation.” 

“The Central Coast of California has been devastated by the scourge of fentanyl on our streets, with some areas seeing a 700% spike in overdose deaths in recent years. Hundreds in my region are dying every year, along with thousands more across the U.S., and pounds of this lethal drug are reaching our borders every day,” Representative Salud Carbajal said. “I’m proud to stand with my colleagues from across the aisle and around the country to introduce legislation that affirms our Department of Defense’s role in our fight against fentanyl, increases federal attention to its trafficking, and encourages more cooperation with Mexico to crack down on the cartels and other networks that are pushing it into our communities. We need an international and all-hands approach to curbing these overdose deaths–and it starts with cutting off the supply before it reaches our communities.”

The Department of Defense plays a crucial role in the nation’s counter-drug intelligence and monitoring operations, and these operations are meant to provide federal law enforcement with actionable intelligence to further investigations. However, a lack of interagency cooperation has hampered our government’s counter-fentanyl efforts.

Specifically, the Disrupt Fentanyl Trafficking Act of 2023 will work to strengthen these efforts by:

  • Declaring fentanyl trafficking a national security threat stemming from drug cartels in Mexico,
  • Directing the Pentagon to develop a fentanyl-specific counter-drug strategy, including enhanced cooperation with Mexican defense officials,
  • Requiring the Secretary of Defense to increase security cooperation with the Mexican military, and
  • Addressing coordination efforts between the military and federal law enforcement agencies.