Billings Gazette: Tester focuses on fentanyl, Ukraine in year-end defense bill

by Tom Lutey

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester will spend the final weeks of the year on getting anti-fentanyl funding added to a major national defense bill.

Speaking to the Montana press Thursday, the senator said the goal is to get $20 million for fentanyl detection equipment authorized as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, a major military funding bill that passes through the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, which Tester chairs.

“Fentanyl usage has spiked dramatically in Montana over the last five years and in addition to making sure that our state and local law enforcement agencies are fully equipped to fight this problem, it is critical that we do our best to stop fentanyl trafficking at the source,” Tester said. “Once passed, this bill will provide $20 million to develop new technology to target and detect illicit fentanyl being trafficked into the United States. It will enhance targeting of counterfeit pills and illicit pill presses through non-intrusive and other visual screening technologies.”

The “Securing America’s Borders Against Fentanyl Act” is being carried by the leadership of the Armed Services committees in the House and Senate. A meatier portion of the defense bill will add another installment of military spending for Ukraine. Tester said the final investment of 2022 will likely cost $30 billion. The investment comes just weeks before Republicans take control of the U.S. House, which is expected to change the U.S. support for Ukraine in its resistance to a an almost 11-month-old invasion by Russia.

A handful of House Republicans, including Montana Rep. Matt Rosendale, have objected to spending U.S. funds to counter the Russian invasion, arguing the war is of no consequence to the United States. Specifically, Rosendale has introduced a bill preventing the U.S. from spending on Ukraine’s defense unless a wall is built along the U.S. border with Mexico.

In the Senate, Republican leadership supports funding for Ukraine. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that he did support defense spending for the Eastern European country.
Tester focuses on fentanyl, Ukraine in year-end defense bill (