(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden pressed lawmakers to approve more funding and tighten laws to help block fentanyl trafficking, following his agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping to crack down on the deadly drug.
Biden on Tuesday heralded an agreement with Xi, who pledged during their summit last week to carry out a law-enforcement campaign against Chinese fentanyl components, and his talks with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on stopping the flow of drugs across the southwest border.
“It’s a global challenge that demands global action,” Biden said at the White House, adding that “Congress also has to step up in this fight” by providing needed funds.
A White House emergency funding request included $1.2 billion for the Department of Homeland Security to counter fentanyl trafficking. But the package has been held up in Congress over disagreements about Ukraine assistance and immigration policy.
Biden also urged lawmakers to take action to change the Controlled Substances Act to ensure that illicit fentanyl substances are classified as Schedule I, a Drug Enforcement Administration label for those with no medical use and high potential for abuse. He said the change would make it easier to limit distribution of pill presses and other means of producing the drug.
The president was joined Tuesday by National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Attorney General Merrick Garland and other drug policy officials.
Earlier: Biden to Lift Curbs on Chinese Forensic Lab in Fentanyl Deal
US officials characterized the agreement between Biden and Xi last week as one of the main achievements from their meeting.
Xi vowed to crack down on manufacturers and exporters of fentanyl and the precursor chemicals. In return, the US is lifting sanctions on the Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s Institute for Forensic Science, a national network of crime labs accused of human-rights violations against ethnic Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang region.
“Now, we’re not just going to trust about this, that this is happening. We have to verify it. And that’s going to save lives,” Biden said.
The deal prompted criticism from some Republicans who said Biden did not secure enough assurances from China. It isn’t clear if the administration would reimpose the penalties on the forensics institute if Beijing does not honor its commitments.
Fentanyl has fueled a public health crisis, with more than 150 people in the US dying each day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Multiple presidents have grappled with the opioid epidemic.
Republican presidential candidates have assailed Biden’s response to the crisis and vowed to get tougher on China to block the flow of the drugs, including by deploying the US military against cartels in Mexico and disrupting economic ties between the US and China.
--With assistance from Michelle Jamrisko.
(Updates to add additional context in fifth paragraph)
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