Government affairs

Legislative Updates

House Ways and Means holds hearing on international mail system and opioids

The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade held a hearing today titled “Stopping the Flow of Synthetic Opioids in the International Mail System,” focusing on the external shipments of illegal drugs into the United States. Chairman David Reichert (R-WA) led the hearing where a number of representatives questioned the two witnesses, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Executive Assistant Commissioner of Office of Field Operations Todd Owen, and the U.S. Postal Service’s Vice President of Network Operations Robert Cintron.

Similar to the Senate hearing back in January (read NALC’s write up here), the House hearing addressed the influx of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid many times stronger than heroin, that witnesses state is often shipped into the states from China through mail and express courier services. Throughout the hearing, witnesses and representatives alike expressed the need for increased resources and personnel, communication between agencies, and cooperation between countries.

Numerous questions revolved around the use and expansion of advanced electronic data (AED) on inbound international packages. Witnesses testified that AED is a useful tool to slowing if not halting the spread of illegal substances into the country and stated that its use is being incorporated steadily in developing countries, especially in China where it’s estimated that by the year’s end around 70 percent of packages from China will include the data.

“I would like to thank CBP and the Postal Service for working closely and cooperatively with our bipartisan Committee staff to craft a legislative solution that would require the transmittal of advance electronic data on all international mail shipments in a way that is effective and achievable, and ensures the agencies are held accountable to Congress,” said Subcommittee Chair Dave Reichert (R-WA).

Attention was also paid to the STOP Act of 2017 (H.R. 1057 and S.372), a bill that would require AED on all packages and large envelopes mailed to the United States.

“I understand that CBP and USPS have some concerns with the STOP Act as it currently stands,” said Ranking Member Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), “but I am confident that we can work on bipartisan basis to address these concerns and maintain a robust mechanism that ensures that CBP and USPS are held accountable for collecting data on international shipments.”

While much of the hearing dealt with interception and the use of AED, many of the committee’s democrats noted that not enough emphasis was being placed on addressing the U.S. demand for drugs. If legislators could work to lower demand for synthetic opioids in the country in addition to cutting supply, Americans would benefit.

Letter carriers, who work in every neighborhood in the country, have seen the devastating impact of opioids firsthand. We are fully committed to working with Congress to fight the epidemic in any way we can.

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