WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding the opioid crisis:
“Of course, the flow of actual people is not our only border security problem.
“Americans are dying and communities are being hollowed out because foreign drug dealers and profiteers have taken our opioid crisis as a business opportunity.
“Fentanyl and fentanyl analogues that pour into our country impose a staggering, tragic cost.
“In 2020, the CDC recorded more overdose deaths than any year on record. They attributed the spike primarily to synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
“My home state of Kentucky logged a 50% year-on-year increase in overdose deaths.
“Fentanyl and its constantly-changing analogues are as toxic and lethal an illegal drug as there is. We’re talking about substances that can be orders of magnitude more potent than morphine.
“Customs and Border Protection say fentanyl seizures jumped more than 70% in FY 2020. They’re on pace for another record year in 2021. Much of this poison is manufactured in and exported from China.
“The scope of this crisis is staggering. But incredibly, some on the political left want to respond to this national crisis by letting the criminal status of fentanyl analogues lapse this spring.
“People want to let these drugs become legal.
“I’m not making this up. Fentanyl analogues are poised to fall off the schedule of controlled substances in just weeks if Congress does not act, and some corners of the soft-on-crime left want us to do nothing. They are unhappy with the sentences that can be imposed on drug dealers as a result.
“These people are seriously arguing that we should let these substances flow even more freely through American streets and American neighborhoods, costing who knows how many additional American lives, to help some drug dealers avoid prison.
“I understand that even among Democrats who say they don’t want to decriminalize these poisons, there is some effort to kick the can a few months with a temporary extension, so that a soft-on-crime bill could be crafted and forcibly paired with this step.
“These are terrible ideas. The right thing to do is obvious. This isn’t a trick question.
“We need to permanently schedule fentanyl analogues, take this permanent step to protect Americans, and be done with it.
“We should not just kick the can two months, or five months, or 12 months down the road. We should not let this common-sense step be held hostage for liberal horse-trading. We need to simply do the right thing.
“Congress cannot hold American lives and communities hostage to try to grease the skids for drug dealers.
“Continuing to ban these analogues is not even a recipe for mass incarceration. The main effect is to cut down on the incoming supply of these poisons by changing the incentives for producers in China and other foreign countries.
“The Department of Justice reports that, in the last 3 years, only 8 people would have qualified for the mandatory minimum sentences that some people are complaining about. More than anything else, scheduling these terrible drugs is a harm reduction and prevention tool. It works upstream. It disincentivizes their manufacture and their import into America.
“Too many of our neighbors have already been taken from us. Too many communities have already been hollowed out. There is no excuse for inaction.
“It should not just be a Republican priority to slam the door on the opioid epidemic in every possible way. This should be a bipartisan no-brainer.
“Let’s permanently schedule these analogues and keep this poison out of our land and out of our citizens’ bloodstreams.”