WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate today passed the final National Defense Authorization Act which included three key priorities secured by U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH). The bill includes new sanctions tools to target foreign opioid traffickers in China, Mexico and other countries. It also includes legislation -- named in honor of Otto Warmbier, an Ohioan who lost his life after being held prisoner by North Korea -- to strengthen and expand current U.S. sanctions on that country. Finally, it includes provisions to prevent federal funds from being used by transit agencies to purchase rail cars or buses manufactured by Chinese state-owned, controlled, or subsidized companies.
Brown helped secure these provisions in the House-Senate NDAA conference report, which now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
Brown’s bipartisan Fentanyl Sanctions Act was included as an amendment to the NDAA and would give U.S. officials new sanction tools to target foreign opioid traffickers in China, Mexico and other countries. It would also better enable U.S. diplomats and law enforcement officials to maintain pressure on the Chinese government to implement and strictly enforce China’s commitment to treat all forms of illicit fentanyl as illegal. Cities throughout Ohio -- including Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus -- have experienced spikes in suspected overdose deaths, and law enforcement officials believe fentanyl is largely to blame. Brown originally introduced this bill with Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).
“On average, 14 people will die every day in Ohio due to an opioid overdose,” said Brown. “The addiction crisis has taken too many lives and caused too much devastation in Ohio. This bill will provide effective new sanctions tools to help combat the flood of illicit fentanyl coming into the U.S. primarily from China and Mexico, and help provide intelligence and funding to keep these dangerous drugs out of Ohio communities.”
Brown’s Fentanyl Sanctions Act would help crack down on illegal fentanyl coming to Ohio by:
The fentanyl sanctions follow Brown’s successful efforts to enact his INTERDICT Act into law, which provided U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) with additional high-tech screening equipment and lab resources to detect fentanyl before it enters the U.S.
North Korea Sanctions
Brown also secured his North Korea sanctions provisions in the NDAA, legislation named in honor of Otto Warmbier, an Ohioan who lost his life after being held prisoner by North Korea. The NDAA will include a new version of the bipartisan Otto Warmbier Nuclear Sanctions and Enforcement Act of 2019 to strengthen and expand current U.S. sanctions on North Korea.
“It’s important we send a clear signal that the U.S. is serious about maintaining economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program, and to stop its continuing human rights abuses like those that took the life of Otto Warmbier,” said Brown. “I thank Chairman Crapo, and Senators Toomey, Van Hollen and Portman for their leadership on this issue.”
Brown, Ranking Member on the Banking Committee, led this bill with Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), Chairman of the committee. Brown worked alongside Sen. Crapo to shepherd this bill through committee. The original version of these sanctions against North Korea were first introduced last Congress and Banking Committee members Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) were lead cosponsors of the bill as well.
North Korea’s actions have drawn international condemnation. A North Korea armed with nuclear weapons presents a major threat to several of its Asian neighbors, and to U.S. national security.
Specifically, the Otto Warmbier Nuclear Sanctions and Enforcement Act of 2019 would:
Chinese Rail Cars
In addition to fentanyl sanctions, Brown also secured his Transit Infrastructure Vehicle Security Act, which he introduced with U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mike Crapo (R-ID). This legislation would prevent federal funds from being used by transit agencies to purchase rail cars or buses manufactured by Chinese owned, controlled, or subsidized companies. The legislation will also ensure that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority will not purchase Chinese rail cars for use in the Washington, DC region.
“This strong bipartisan bill protects federal dollars from being spent on Chinese buses and railcars, and improves cybersecurity in public transportation,” said Brown. “Federal dollars should not support Chinese state-controlled enterprises that want to undermine U.S. manufacturers and overtake our supply chain that supports rail and bus manufacturing.”
The Chinese government continues to use a range of state subsidies and predatory practices to support its market ascension in certain sectors of the United States’ economy. Two of these sectors, rail manufacturing and bus manufacturing, are included as part of China’s “Made in China 2025” initiative, a plan targeting global dominance in areas that the Chinese government considers most strategic to its global aims.
Chinese state-owned and state-supported enterprises have used subsidized “bargain prices” well-below competitive market price to win contracts throughout the United States. A number of large, metropolitan areas have recently awarded rail rolling stock procurements to a Chinese state-owned enterprise. There are a number of threats these procurements pose including impeding economic competitiveness and overtaking the supply chains that support United States public transportation agencies. Chinese state-owned and state-supported enterprises have increased security vulnerabilities and create new risks for rolling stock procurements.
Specifically, the Transit Infrastructure Vehicle Security Act would prevent federal transit funds from being used by transit agencies to procure Chinese rail assets and ensure transit agencies develop and execute a cybersecurity plan.