Portman, Klobuchar Push Biden Administration to Fully Implement Law to Stop Fentanyl From Entering U.S. Via USPS

Portman & Klobuchar’s Bipartisan STOP Act to Reduce Amount of Fentanyl Shipped into the U.S. Became Law in 2018

WASHINGTON, DC - U.S Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, have sent a letter urging the Biden administration to take additional action to tackle the rise in illegal opioids entering the U.S. Specifically, the senators called on the administration to fully implement the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP Act), their bipartisan legislation enacted in 2018 to decrease fentanyl shipments by reducing the number of countries exempted from this law. This letter follows Portman and Klobuchar’s December 2021 letter urging the administration to fully implement the STOP Act’s requirements and ensure that any exemptions issued meet the strict requirements outlined in the bill.   

“Congress passed the STOP Act to prevent illicit drugs, including fentanyl, from entering the United States through the United States Postal Service. The bill requires the Postal Service to provide Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) advance electronic data (“AED”) on international mail. CBP then uses this data to stop fentanyl and other illegal opioids before they can make their way to communities,” the senators wrote to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. “These requirements help to save lives…We must do everything possible to stop fentanyl and other illicit opioids from entering the United States…As CBP begins to re-evaluate waivers for 2023, we urge the Department to exercise restraint and ensure that any waivers issued meet the strict requirements outlined in the STOP Act. If waivers do not remain a temporary exception, we can expect illicit mail traffic to shift to waiver jurisdictions.” 

In 2018, Senators Portman and Klobuchar’s bipartisan STOP Act became law. The STOP Act helps to reduce the supply of fentanyl shipped into the United States through the U.S. Postal Service by requiring advance electronic data (AED) on all inbound international packages. As then Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), Portman conducted an 18-month investigation and released a bipartisan report detailing how drug traffickers exploit vulnerabilities in our international mail system to easily ship synthetic, illicit narcotics, like fentanyl, from China into the United States through the U.S. Postal Service. 

A full text of the letter is available here and below: 

Dear Secretaries Mayorkas and Blinken and Postmaster General DeJoy: 

We are writing to follow-up on our December 2021 letter regarding the implementation of the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (“STOP”) Act and the use of waivers.   

As you know, Congress passed the STOP Act to prevent illicit drugs, including fentanyl, from entering the United States through the United States Postal Service. The bill requires the Postal Service to provide Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) advance electronic data (“AED”) on international mail.   CBP then uses this data to stop fentanyl and other illegal opioids before they can make their way to communities.   

These requirements help to save lives.  Overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl, increased by more than 56 percent between 2019 to 2020.  Early data suggest that opioid deaths accelerated during the pandemic.  We must do everything possible to stop fentanyl and other illicit opioids from entering the United States. 

In December, we wrote to express concern about the number of countries that received a waiver from complying with the STOP Act requirements to provide AED in 2021.  In the Department of Homeland Security’s response to our letter, the Department indicated that the number of countries receiving waivers in 2022 “has been reduced” and that USPS calculations indicated that “non-waiver countries will cover 95 percent of the total inbound volume of international mail.”   We also urged the State Department to pursue efforts to advance global requirements for AED through the Universal Postal Union and the World Customs Organization, including working to ensure that any exemptions from customs information and AED requirements are narrowly tailored to avoid the risk of trafficking.  

As CBP begins to re-evaluate waivers for 2023, we urge the Department to exercise restraint and ensure that any waivers issued meet the strict requirements outlined in the STOP Act.  If waivers do not remain a temporary exception, we can expect illicit mail traffic to shift to waiver jurisdictions.   

Accordingly, we ask that you answer the following questions by November 14:

  1. How many countries received STOP Act waivers for 2022?   
  1.  Approximately what percentage of the total inbound volume of international mail comes from waiver vs. non-waiver countries? 
  1. What steps has the agency taken since our December 2021 letter to pursue efforts to advance global requirements for AED? 
  1. What steps does the agency plan to take during its upcoming review process to ensure that waivers remain a temporary exception? 
  1. What percentage of AED submissions are considered “complete” where entries are inserted for each field?  Please provide AED manifest quality analysis results for the past two years on the completeness of AED submissions. 

Thank you for your prompt attention to these concerns. 

###