Portman Urges Action on STOP Act with Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Nominee
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman questioned Kevin McAleenan, nominee for Commissioner—and current Acting Commissioner—of U.S. Customs and Border Protection on his plan to prevent dangerous synthetic drugs like fentanyl from being shipped from countries like China to drug traffickers in Ohio and around the United States. Portman is pressing for action on his bipartisan Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, legislation designed to help stop these dangerous drugs from being shipped through our borders to drug traffickers here in the United States.
Transcript can be found below and a video can be found here.
Portman: “Sadly, the new waves of drugs coming in are synthetic. They are ones that are even more dangerous and even less expensive. And even in my state of Ohio, our state of Ohio, Senator Brown and me, even to the point that we now believe it is the number one cause of death among the other drugs, so prescription drugs, heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil, and other synthetics are now pushing those out. And I talked to law enforcement last week. Someone told me, ‘Rob, it is actually being spread in every other drug now.’ They are finding traces of fentanyl in other drugs including cocaine, marijuana and so on. It’s a scourge and it’s time we do something about it. And as you know, back in 2002, this committee passed legislation that said if you are a private carrier, you’ve got to provide, you, Customs and Border Protection, the DEA, local law enforcement information so that they can stop these illegal drugs, but also other contraband coming into the country. And that is advanced electronic data that allows them to target packages or letters to know when there is a potential problem by saying what’s in it, where it’s from, where it’s going. We did not require it of the Post Office in 2002, but we did say they should do it. And we said there should be a study on it. Well, here we are 15 years later, with this crisis on our hands, and the Post Office still hasn’t done it.
“Why is that a problem? Fentanyl doesn’t come over land, fentanyl comes almost exclusively through the mail system and the traffickers have figured this out. They don’t tend to use UPS, FedEx, or DHL. They use the Post Office because the Post Office doesn’t require that information. And so I just can’t tell you. I’ve been out in the field with your guys, as you know I’ve told you about this, I’ve been at two screening facilities in Ohio where I have seen them at private carriers, DHL, UPS, pull the product, pull the packages, have them tested, which is incredibly dangerous because they have the information. They know where the suspect packages are. And the Post Office has pushed back on this unbelievably.
“This committee has a responsibility here. And the Chairman’s got a lot on his plate right now with tax reform, but we need to mark up this bill, Mr. Chairman, it’s called the STOP Act. It’s very simple. It simply says the Post Office should do what we suggested they do 15 years ago. And we have to do it now. This stuff is coming primarily from China and primarily from the U.S. Postal Service and its going straight to P.O. boxes of traffickers and users and to abandoned warehouses in my state of Ohio. This poison is getting into our communities. It is again the number one cause of death now, we believe, in terms of overdoses. So again, you and I have talked about this, I’d love for you to comment on this today and to tell us what you’re going to do once we get that ‘Acting’ off your business card, and you are able to roll up your sleeves and get engaged in helping to stop this deadly poison from coming into our communities.”
McAleenan: “Thank you, Senator. Let me just say that I share your concern on the scourge of fentanyl and its effect on our communities, especially in the state of Ohio, one hundred percent. Since I met you, I’ve met with Postmaster General Brennan four times, either in person or by phone, to talk about how we can increase that advanced electronic data to better identify potential risky shipments coming into the US. We’ve had some significant developments in that area. We are up to 44 percent of mail providing some advanced electronic data. That is a dramatic change because of China increasing their submissions. China is also the highest origin point for fentanyl as you know Senator. So we think those are very positive developments, but were not going to stop there. We know we need to move toward a regulatory approach to requiring this data. We know we need to closely collaborate with Postal on capacity building for posts around the world. We need to continue to emphasize this at the World Customs Organization, which I would represent the U.S. with as well as the Universal Postal Union with the Postmaster General, would be representing. We’ve got to get there. We have to get comprehensive data to better target, and we appreciate your focus on that requirement in the Senate.”
Portman: “Do you support the STOP Act?”
McAleenan: I can’t support a specific piece of legislation, but I absolutely support the goals of the STOP Act in getting that advanced electronic data and there are several other things in the strategy that we think would be helpful along with the U.S. Postal Service and FDA that we can offer to enhance our capability as well.”
Portman: “Your Acting Assistant Commissioner, Robert Perez, testified before us at the Homeland Security Committee that STOP Act was a good idea, and so has the Secretary of DHS, both former and current. This administration needs to help us to get this thing done and to be sure that we have the requirement in law that these packages are able to be identified by your people to be able to stop this poison from coming in. I will say also, Mr. Chairman, just quickly; this is an issue that crosses party lines. We have 26 cosponsors including members from this committee on both sides of the aisle, including Senator Brown and myself. And there’s an urgency here. This is not like some other legislation we may talk to you about today. This is one that is killing people right now. We know we can help to keep some of this off the streets, and at a minimum, raise the price, and I think this is such an urgent matter that I hope, should you be confirmed, and I believe you will be, that you will take this up and help us get this legislation passed.”