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Murphy proposes $1B plan to combat fentanyl coming into U.S.

A billboard put up by Families Against Fentanyl displays their message on the 57 freeway near Orangethorpe Ave. in Placentia, CA on Thursday, April 6, 2023. Jim Rauh founded Families Against Fentanyl after it claimed the life of his 37-year-old son, Thomas, in 2015.
Paul Bersebach
MediaNews Group RM via Getty Images
A billboard put up by Families Against Fentanyl displays their message on the 57 freeway near Orangethorpe Ave. in Placentia, CA on Thursday, April 6, 2023. Jim Rauh founded Families Against Fentanyl after it claimed the life of his 37-year-old son, Thomas, in 2015.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., proposed a nearly $1 billion budget on Tuesday seeking to prevent fentanyl from entering into the U.S. as states like Connecticut see the synthetic opioid playing a significant role in overdose deaths.

Murphy, who is chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, released a five-part plan seeking to go beyond the current funding levels passed last year to combat fentanyl and expand on the efforts and resources provided to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The proposal comes ahead of a Wednesday hearing Murphy is holding on transnational criminal organizations and drug trafficking.

In 2022, Connecticut had 1,452 accidental intoxication deaths, with 86% of them involving fentanyl, according to data released by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The number was a slight dip from 2021 but still higher than pre-pandemic levels. Data from that year also found the opioid epidemic having a disproportionate effect on Black and Hispanic residents.

Murphy is proposing more than $360 million to help with identifying and seizing fentanyl at ports of entry and international mail facilities. His plan seeks to boost the number of inspections of passenger vehicles coming into the U.S. from 40% to 65%. That money would help add 500 more U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers along with additional intelligence analysts, canine units, non-intrusive inspection equipment and labs at these entry points.

Other parts of the plan include the expansion of Homeland Security Investigations and the task forces and agents who work on investigatory efforts, both domestically and internationally. It would also increase the number of outbound operations from three to nine ports of entry to aid in the seizure of currency and weapons connected with the trade and sales of fentanyl.

With the potential for a growing number of personnel, Murphy is also requesting more funding for personal protective equipment, medication and training that would limit and prevent accidental exposure to fentanyl.

“The death and devastation of the fentanyl crisis is unlike anything we have faced before. These options would help build upon the bipartisan success we achieved in last year’s spending package,” Murphy said in a statement. “As we return to regular order in our appropriations process, I hope this serves as a starting point for a substantive debate on how best to stem the flow of fentanyl.”

As immigration policy remains at a standstill in Congress, lawmakers in both parties have sought to address the issue of fentanyl and its role in fueling addiction in the U.S. The Food and Drug Administration recently approved Narcan, a brand of nasal spray naloxone that can reverse opioid overdoses, to be sold over-the-counter later this year. But 28 towns in Connecticut do not have a permit to sell it at their stores.

For Murphy, the issue of stopping the flow of fentanyl into the country also intersects with his other priorities of gun safety and immigration reforms.

During a March visit to Mexico City, Murphy met with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to chat about reducing the amount of fentanyl coming into the U.S. through Mexico and other countries as well as discussions on gun trafficking and migration. He also visited the southern border a few months earlier to seek bipartisan compromise on revising the U.S. immigration system.

Murphy’s subcommittee will play a role in crafting part of Congress’ next appropriations package to fund the federal government for fiscal year 2024. Current funding levels expire at the end of September. Any funding for government agencies will need bipartisan approval with narrow majorities in the GOP-led House and the Democratic-controlled Senate.

A congressional aide said Sen. Katie Britt, R-Ala., the ranking member of the subcommittee, has been briefed on the budget proposal but has not yet signaled whether or not she would be supportive. Murphy and Britt recently partnered on a bill that would implement protections and age requirements for children and teenagers using social media.

“I think this was crafted in a way to be pretty nonpartisan,” the aide said. “This is one of the issues when it comes to immigration where [Democrats and Republicans] fully and truly agree on, so we don’t anticipate Republicans would have many if any objections to what is in this proposal.”

The Connecticut Mirror/Connecticut Public Radio federal policy reporter position is made possible, in part, by funding from the Robert and Margaret Patricelli Family Foundation and Engage CT.

This story was originally published by the Connecticut Mirror.

Lisa Hagen is CT Public and CT Mirror’s shared Federal Policy Reporter. Based in Washington, D.C., she focuses on the impact of federal policy in Connecticut and covers the state’s congressional delegation. Lisa previously covered national politics and campaigns for U.S. News & World Report, The Hill and National Journal’s Hotline.

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