(NewsNation) — A bipartisan group of lawmakers wants to give the military extra resources to target cartels and take on the threat of fentanyl.
Currently, the military is on the sidelines in the fight against drug trafficking by cartels, lawmakers tell NewsNation. This is partially because though fentanyl is a significant issue, it is not technically considered a national security threat.
A proposed bill would change that while directing the Pentagon to develop a specific fentanyl counterstrategy.
The legislation also aims to coordinate efforts between the military and federal law enforcement. There is currently some coordination between these two bodies, the lawmakers behind the bill tell NewsNation, but it is not enough.
The proposed bill has widespread support with a Democrat and a Republican in each branch of Congress — U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Calif. and U.S. Rep. Stephanie Bice, R-Okla., in the House of Representatives, and Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, in the Senate — championing the legislation.
“In communities across our country, including my own Central Coast communities, we are seeing the rise of deaths by hundreds of percentage points,” Carbajal said. “It is an epidemic and we need to take aggressive steps and work through various channels, including the Department of Defense.”
Carbajal told NewsNation that fatal overdoses from fentanyl have risen 700% in the Santa Barbara area of California.
Bice, who is also supporting the bill, says about 645 million doses of fentanyl were seized in the month of March alone.
The question many lawmakers remain skeptical about is whether Mexico will cooperate.
“We have got a long ways to go,” Ernst said. “So are our neighbor, they should be close friends, and we need to develop those relationships much more than we have currently.”