Langevin Bill to Prevent Fentanyl Trafficking Reported Favorably by Homeland Security Committee

Jul 17, 2019 Issues: Children and Families, Health Care

WASHINGTON – Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) delivered the following remarks in support of H.R. 3722, the Joint Task Force to Combat Opioid Trafficking Act of 2019, at today’s Committee on Homeland Security markup. The legislation, which will help prevent the trafficking of fentanyl and other opioids, was ordered reported to the full House of Representatives. Video of today’s markup and Langevin’s remarks (beginning at 2:16:36):

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for including my bill, the Joint Task Force to Combat Opioid Trafficking Act of 2019, in the en bloc package.

“Drug overdoses in my state of Rhode Island – and across the country – are a public health crisis.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 130 people in the United States died every day from an opioid-related drug overdose in 2017. In total, 47,600 died in an epidemic that tears families apart and devastates communities.

“All of my fellow committee members have become all too familiar with fentanyl, a once obscure synthetic opioid that, in 2018, was involved in two thirds of drug overdose deaths in Rhode Island.

“Our constituents need leadership from Congress and from this Committee in order to stem the tide.

“Unlike many other prescription opioids, which are often diverted from legitimate purposes, the bulk of illicit fentanyl use is tied to drugs smuggled across the border, especially from China.

“Last Congress, under the leadership of Senator Claire McCaskill, the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs conducted a study that found the vast majority of opioids interdicted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection are seized at ports of entry.

“Between 2013 and 2017, approximately 25,405 pounds, or 88% of all opioids were seized by CBP.

“The most active areas were located along the southern border as those seizures accounted for 75% of all opioids collected at ports of entry during the same five-year period.

“My bill, the Joint Task Force to Combat Opioid Trafficking Act of 2019, authorizes the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish a task force to enhance the internal integration of the Department’s border security operations to detect, interdict, disrupt, and prevent narcotics, including fentanyl, from entering the United States.

“The bill builds upon the existing joint task force model, pioneered by former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, to foster coordination at the highest levels of the Department on specific challenges.

“Importantly, the bill also encourages the opioids joint task force to collaborate with private sector organizations and any other Federal, State, local, tribal, territorial, or international task force—including those working with the United States Postal Service and other parcel delivery services—to increase operational effectiveness, coordination, and information sharing.

“Addressing the crisis ravaging our communities is, of necessity, collaborative. Public health professionals, social services providers, and law enforcement agencies all have important roles to play.

“DHS needs to be a bigger part of that conversation, and it needs to bring its capabilities to the table in a manner facilitated by the joint task force model.

“In closing, Mr. Chairman, I want to acknowledge the ample collaboration that went into developing this bill.

“As I mentioned at the outset, Senator McCaskill was instrumental in laying the groundwork for this bill. Mr. Chairman, you and your staff, particularly Alex Carnes and Rosaline Cohen, were instrumental in bringing this bill together last Congress.

“I want to thank my good friend, Mr. King, for helping to make this a bipartisan effort from the get-go and for his unwavering commitment to our homeland security and law enforcement personnel.

“I am also grateful for Mr. Rose’s support and for his operational experience addressing this crisis on Staten Island.

“Finally, I want to thank the former chairman of the Committee, my good friend Mr. McCaul, for working to shepherd this bill across the House floor last Congress.

“I hope my Senate colleagues will recognize the wisdom of this approach and take up the bill this year. I yield the balance of my time.”