Bipartisan Fentanyl Bill Passes House

Fake Oxycodone pills containing fentanyl. | Image by DEA

Texas prosecutors and law enforcement might soon have a permanent tool available in the fight against fentanyl.

A U.S. House bill targeting the fentanyl epidemic and supported by the Biden administration passed 289-133 on Thursday.

The Republican-led Halt All Lethal Trafficking of Fentanyl Act would elevate fentanyl to the most serious class of illegal drugs, making fentanyl charges felonies.

Seventy-four Democrats voted in favor of the bill, sponsored by Reps. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and Bob Latta (R-OH).

Only one Republican voted against it, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY).

The bill would expedite government research on the drug, according to the sponsors, and make it easier to classify. Fentanyl reportedly was responsible for 70,000 deaths last year, the National Institute of Drug Abuse said.

The White House’s Office of Budget and Management (OBM) wrote on May 22 in support of the bill.

“The Administration calls on Congress to pass all of these critical measures to improve public safety and save lives,” it stated.

Fentanyl has been temporarily elevated to a Schedule I drug through 2024. The Controlled Substance Act has five levels. Schedule I is the highest.

“How can you oppose this? Literally, how can you oppose this?” Rep. August Pfluger (R-TX) said, according to the Congressional Record. “Every day we hear more and more stories of lives ended by fentanyl, and it is our responsibility to act.”

A Democratic legislator said previous votes to enhance charges had not improved the fentanyl epidemic.

“The American people deserve bipartisan solutions that address both public safety and public health,” Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) said, according to the Congressional Record. “This bill fails on both fronts and simply continues the status quo, allowing opioid use disorder and the overdose crisis to continue to devastate American families across the nation.”

North Texas has been hit hard by fentanyl. The DEA Dallas Division said it has been running major operations to stop the flow into local communities.

“You know with some of the world’s biggest airports, the interstate system, and just the centralized location here in the United States, it really gives an advantage to cartels,” DEA Dallas Division Special Agent in Charge Eduardo Chávez told CBS News Texas.

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