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Sherrod Brown touts fentanyl bill win in Ohio Senate slugfest

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The FEND Off Fentanyl Act, which Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown worked on for more than a year with GOP Sen. Tim Scott to pass, hasn’t garnered headlines like this week’s foreign aid package did.

It’s still hugely important for Brown — and his political future.

The bill empowers the president to sanction drug traffickers and gangs, a big deal for Brown since Ohio has one of the highest overdose death rates in the country. It’s also a bright contrast with Brown’s GOP opponent in his tight Senate race, Bernie Moreno, who said he would have opposed the foreign aid package Tuesday.

The Senate Banking chair has perhaps the most ambitious portfolio of bipartisan legislation he hopes to pass of any at-risk senator. And while the FEND Off Act is a popular priority in Congress, it had plenty of false starts after Scott introduced the bill and Brown helped shepherd it through committee.

First the legislation was slated to be wrapped into a defense bill, then a doomed border security package. Finally this month, it was included as essentially the only major border-related item in the foreign aid package, which is now law.

Brown touted law enforcement’s endorsement of his and Scott’s bill, saying they had asked for “more tools to stop fentanyl at its source.” And Ohio Democrats quickly tweaked Moreno’s campaign for saying he’d oppose the package Tuesday, after he said he only supported the Israel component. He also was no fan of the first border package in February, which contained the FEND Off Act.

However, as Brown touted his legislative accomplishment Wednesday, Moreno clarified he would have supported the fentanyl bill on its own and was happy that part had passed. He then criticized Brown, who supported the bipartisan border deal.

“Bernie is happy to see any action to stop the flow of fentanyl into our country and would have supported this as a standalone bill. However, Sherrod Brown has a long record of supporting open border policies that have exacerbated the fentanyl crisis,” said Moreno spokesperson Reagan McCarthy in a statement to POLITICO. McCarthy went on to cite several of Brown’s votes on the border wall and other immigration policies.

The sausage-making of Congress often makes it impossible to get that standalone vote, as several Republicans lamented this week amid an up-or-down call on the $95 billion aid package. For his part, Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), a Moreno ally, is a co-sponsor of the fentanyl bill but was a staunch opponent of the entire package.

Though Moreno isn’t alone in his stance, Brown’s campaign is not holding back. It’s not hard to see why: The fiery Democrat’s reelection chances in Ohio may rise or fall upon his ability to work with the GOP.

“Sherrod’s leading the fight to stop the flow of fentanyl into Ohio and working with Republicans to get it done — the fact that Bernie Moreno has opposed it every step of the way is another reason he’s wrong for Ohio,” said Reeves Oyster, a Brown spokesperson.