House passes bill to combat flow of opioids into US

Legislation to beef up U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) ability to detect attempts to smuggle opioids into the country passed in the House on Tuesday.

The House voted 412-3 to approve the bill, which would authorize $9 million to ensure the CBP has chemical screening devices, scientists and other personnel available to detect the illegal importation of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.

“The federal government must do its part to ensure our first responders have the tools they need in this greatest of public health fights,” said Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.), who authored the legislation with Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.).

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Fentanyl is estimated to be up to 50 times stronger than heroin and is mostly imported into the U.S. from Mexico or China. It's typically smuggled across the U.S. border or delivered via mail, as it can be ordered online.

Generally, fentanyl is distributed in small amounts due to its potency, which makes it harder for law enforcement to detect it at checkpoints.

Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyTrump mulls replacing Commerce chief Ross by end of year: reports Sprint has been throttling Skype, researchers say Schumer: Interfering with Mueller would spark 'constitutional crisis' MORE (D-Mass.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownThe Memo: Dem hopes for 2020 grow in midterms afterglow On The Money: Funding fight to dominate dramatic lame duck | Trump blames Dems for stock slide | Trump hits Comcast after antitrust complaint | Officials reportedly moving closer to imposing auto tariffs Sherrod Brown mulling presidential run in 2020 MORE (D-Ohio), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioJeb Bush calls for Broward County official to be removed from post Florida Dem rep: Scott is 'spinning conspiracy theories' Gillum retracts concession in Florida governor's race MORE (R-Fla.) and Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoCourt rules against Trump administration on gillnet ban rollback The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Dem path to a Senate majority narrows GOP shrugs off dire study warning of global warming MORE (R-W.Va.) have introduced bipartisan companion legislation in the Senate.

Passage of the bill came a week after a Washington Post and "60 Minutes" joint investigation found that Congress had passed a bill in 2016 that hindered the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) efforts to combat the opioid crisis.

Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) withdrew his name for consideration as President Trump’s drug czar after the investigation revealed his role in pushing the bill, which made it harder for the DEA to stop prescription opioids from being supplied to doctors and pharmacists suspected of selling narcotics on the black market.