Pa.’s Pat Toomey teams with Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer on fentanyl bill

    U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., talks about efforts to fight fentanyl trafficking during an event in York, Pa., on 3/21/19 (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

    A fiscal conservative from Pennsylvania is teaming up with one of the U.S. Senate’s leading progressives on a bill aimed at fighting the influx of the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl from China.

    U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., rolled out legislation Friday that would, according to a statement released by Toomey’s office:

    • “Impose direct sanctions on drug manufacturers in China that knowingly provide synthetic opioids to traffickers and transnational criminal organizations like those in Mexico known to be mixing fentanyl with other drugs and sending them into the U.S. The bill also applies sanctions on financial institutions that assist such entities.
    • “Urge the Trump administration to commence diplomatic efforts with U.S. partners to establish multilateral sanctions against foreign opioid traffickers,” and
    • “Establish a Commission on Synthetic Opioid Trafficking to monitor U.S. efforts and report on how to more effectively combat the flow of synthetic opioids from China, Mexico, and elsewhere.”

    Even though the Chinese government has stepped up its efforts to combat fentanyl manufacturing and exports, Toomey’s office said “questions remain surrounding China’s ability and willingness to enforce drug laws, as evidenced by denials that its illicit fentanyl producers are contributing to the U.S. opioid crisis.”

    Citing the damage that fentanyl abuse and overdoses had caused across Pennsylvania, Toomey said he’s “committed to holding responsible those who export this poison to our country. Congressional attention coupled with pressure from the Trump administration recently led to China finally subjecting all fentanyl-like chemicals to its drug laws. This bipartisan measure provides Congress with another tool to fight the heroin and fentanyl epidemic.”

    Schumer, in a statement from Toomey’s office, added that “combating the flow of illicit fentanyl into our country is imperative in the fight to save American lives from the opioid crisis.

    “China’s new law to make all fentanyl categories illegal is an important step and the administration deserves praise for their efforts to secure this change. However, we have to demonstrate that we will demand China enforce these laws and take strong action against opioid traffickers,” Schumer said. “Our legislation would apply pressure on China to actually follow through and would equip the administration with tools to systematically go after the major manufacturers and traffickers of fentanyl before the killer drug gets to the U.S.”

    U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Bob Menendez, D-N.J.; Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., are also sponsors of the bill.

    An award-winning political journalist with more than 25 years' experience in the news business, John L. Micek is The Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. Before joining The Capital-Star, Micek spent six years as Opinion Editor at PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., where he helped shape and lead a multiple-award-winning Opinion section for one of Pennsylvania's most-visited news websites. Prior to that, he spent 13 years covering Pennsylvania government and politics for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. His career has also included stints covering Congress, Chicago City Hall and more municipal meetings than he could ever count, Micek contributes regular analysis and commentary to a host of broadcast outlets, including CTV-News in Canada and talkRadio in London, U.K., as well as "Face the State" on CBS-21 in Harrisburg, Pa.; "Pennsylvania Newsmakers" on WGAL-8 in Lancaster, Pa., and the Pennsylvania Cable Network. His weekly column on American politics is syndicated nationwide to more than 800 newspapers by Cagle Syndicate.

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