Senator Collins Urges Secretary Blinken to Prioritize Reducing Flood of Fentanyl That is Killing Americans


Click HERE to watch Senator Collins’ Q&A with Secretary Blinken.  Click HERE to download.


Washington, D.C.—Today, U.S. Senator Susan Collins, the Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, questioned Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the limited funding increase requested by the State Department for a program intended to disrupt the deluge of deadly fentanyl coming into the United States.   Overdose fatalities have surged in recent years, claiming the lives of more than 100,000 Americans annually.


Secretary Blinken was testifying at a State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Subcommittee hearing to justify his agency’s fiscal year 2024 budget request.


Senator Collins:


We recently had a tragic case in Maine, where a 13-year-old girl, with no history of drug abuse, died from taking a pill that was laced with fentanyl. So, this is a tragedy that affects each and every one of our states.


The International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement account works to reduce the production and trafficking of fentanyl and other drugs through its drug supply reduction program. The President's budget proposes $20 million for this program, which is only a $3 million increase above this year's level, despite the flood of fentanyl, the precursors of which come from China, go to Mexico, and then into this country, to poison our people. So, this disappoints me.


I will ask you, do you think you're requesting sufficient funding? If you do, what other measures are you taking to specifically address the threat of fentanyl flowing into our country?


Secretary Blinken:


Thank you very much for that question, because I absolutely share the priority that you, Senator Graham, I think everyone on this committee, is putting on this problem. And as Senator Graham rightly said, the number one killer of Americans 18 to 49 is fentanyl, synthetic opioids. And so, this is, needs to be, a national priority.


I think we, the way that we're approaching this is really a whole of spectrum approach, by which I mean this: Obviously, we're doing work at home, to try to reduce demand, protect our own people, get them the treatment and antidotes they need. But that's not the answer. What we have to, it's part of it, but it's not the answer. We talked about a minute ago about border security and technology, where we can do a lot more to effectively intercept things coming into the country. But that's not enough. We have to be, and we are, working to disrupt the transnational criminal organizations that are engaged in making this stuff, and moving this stuff. And we are, we need to be working with, as we are, with Mexico, to take down the labs, to take down the enterprise. And we need, to your point, to be more effective in preventing the diversion of licit precursors into the illicit fabrication of synthetic opioids, like fentanyl.


So, we've done a number of things to intensely focus on this. With Mexico, we actually are working in very close collaboration. They have now, over the last year, arrested dozens of first and second tier transnational criminal organization leads. They've seized record amounts of fentanyl, but it's a huge sea, but that's going up. They disrupted production facilities with our assistance. We have our Financial Intelligence Unit working with theirs to disrupt the financing of these networks. And we have now, as a result of work that I did with my colleagues, a joint synthetic drug action plan, with Mexico that expands cooperation with them, from law enforcement to the regulatory agencies in Mexico to the trade and health organizations that are really important.


Second, more broadly, for the first time, I just came, a couple of months ago, from the G-20 foreign ministers meeting in preparation for the leaders. For the first time, the United States got this on the full agenda of the G-20. So, these are the most important economies in the world that have a real role and stake in different ways in this. And we will be establishing a working group in the G-20 to work on this.


Third, from the perspective of the State Department as well, one of the things that we're working on is building a coalition, on a voluntary basis at first, to tackle another aspect of this problem. That's the illicit diversion of legal precursors. This is a big problem, as you know. There are things that we can do much more effectively, sharing information, labeling, putting in place know-your-customer protocols, around the world, including with China, to make sure that companies that are, again, involved in the production of perfectly licit precursors, do not have them diverted into the fabrication of synthetic opioids. So, all of that, we're coming together.


Now, as to the resources, Madam Vice Chair, we're very happy to work with you, very closely, to make sure that we are properly resourced for this. I could not agree with you more. This is a number one priority.




As the Chair and Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Susan Collins are pressing forward with the work of writing our nation’s spending bills as quickly as possible.  Under their leadership, the Senate Appropriations Committee is moving full steam ahead with subcommittee hearings on the President’s budget—providing an important opportunity to assess our country’s needs for the coming year and for every appropriator to weigh in on the President’s budget.