- - Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Illicit fentanyl is surging across our southern border and killing more people than ever. This drug is so dangerous and potent that just a few milligrams, which can fit in the ear of Lincoln on a penny, can be lethal.

This synthetic opioid is extremely cheap to make too. In fact, criminal drug cartels are flooding the U.S. with counterfeit pills. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued its first public safety alert in six years warning the public about fake pills laced with lethal doses of illicit fentanyl.

The fentanyl surge is one of the greatest crises facing our nation. Drug overdoses are at a record high, killing more than 100,000 people a year. Every single number is someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, daughter.

Today, it’s hard to meet someone who hasn’t been hurt or knows someone else in despair because of this crisis.

I recently met a courageous mom named Molly from my hometown of Spokane, Washington. Her son’s name was Carson. He was only 23 years old when he purchased one pill from Snapchat. He thought it was Xanax that could ease his anxiety after losing his father and being diagnosed with cancer.

The pill killed him instantly. It was laced with illicit fentanyl.

Molly said her son had his whole life ahead of him. She said, “Carson embodied what is good in this world. He wanted to make the world a better place, not contribute to its demise. I cannot, and will not, sit back and have another family suffer from the tragic loss we have. I do not want my son’s death to be in vain.”

There couldn’t be a more urgent call for action. We must stop the scourge of illicit fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances in our communities.

First and foremost, we need to secure the border. A Biden administration official with the Office of National Drug Control Policy confirmed to the Energy and Commerce Committee that the southern border is primarily how these substances are getting into America. With help from Chinese chemical companies, Mexican drug cartels are trafficking enough illicit fentanyl into the United States to kill every American many times over. A secure border is our strongest defense to crack down on Chinese illicit fentanyl, stop the cartels, and keep these weapon-grade poisons off our streets.

In addition, we need to make sure law enforcement have permanent tools to seize fentanyl-related substances, which are analogues of fentanyl that can be even more dangerous and deadly. Right now, law enforcement has a temporary emergency scheduling order in place for these related substances. Without this order, criminals in clandestine labs could change the chemistry of fentanyl slightly, and the formula would be considered legal.

If this temporary scheduling order expires, law enforcement like our Custom and Border Patrol (CBP) officers will lose the authority to seize these extremely lethal drugs. Drug traffickers will be empowered to push deadlier and deadlier drugs on our streets.

To make sure fentanyl-related substances don’t become street legal, Republicans are leading on the Halt Lethal Trafficking of Fentanyl Act. This will give law enforcement the permanent tools they need to seize these poisons and keep our communities safe.

Unfortunately, Democrats in the House are blocking action on this bill. Why? Because they want to weaken criminal penalties on traffickers who move fentanyl-related substances.

We’re losing a record number of lives to this illicit fentanyl crisis. It doesn’t discriminate against anyone. It only takes one pill laced with a very small lethal dose to end a life and destroy a future like Carson’s. These substances are too deadly for anyone to be weak on traffickers.

Molly asked me how many more letters from grieving parents is it going to take for Congress to take permanent action. The fact is it shouldn’t take another letter or another day. It shouldn’t take another lost loved one. These substances are too deadly for Congress to avoid action. For a more hopeful, prosperous, and healthier future in America, we must secure the border and pass the Halt Lethal Trafficking of Fentanyl Act.

• U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers is the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. She represents Washington state’s 5th Congressional District. She served as Chair of the House Republican Conference from 2012 to 2018.

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