Philip Wegmann for RealClearPolitics
House Republicans have called for a sit-in with President Biden to discuss the ongoing scourge of fentanyl overdoses, and Biden traveled to Arizona earlier this week but declined to visit the southern border, telling reporters “there are bigger things going on “.
Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, the outgoing chairman of the Republican Studies Committee, wrote the letter, obtained by RealClearPolitics. However, this is not the first that House Republicans have fielded.
Banks and seven other House Republicans have requested a meeting with Biden in October to discuss fentanyl and provide letters, photos and obituaries from families who lost loved ones to the drug. “Our request for a meeting was ignored for 48 days,” they now write, during which time “more than 7,500 Americans died in fentanyl-related deaths.”
The request is a blunt message the White House has already received: Republicans don’t think Biden is doing enough. It’s also a preview of conservative attitudes as the incoming Republican majority prepares to step up oversight of the Biden administration’s handling of the border crisis — House Republicans will put victims of the drug epidemic first and blame Biden for inaction ascend.
“Almost everyone in America today has been affected by, or has a loved one affected by, the deadly fentanyl crisis. Hearing directly from mothers who have lost children to fentanyl poisoning is my key One of the most powerful meetings I’ve ever been in during Congress,” Banks said.
“We ask President Biden to stop ignoring our pleas and allow us to share the stories of these families,” he added.
Overdoses reached catastrophic highs in the first year of the pandemic and then continued to rise. Nearly 94,000 people died in 2020, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Biden administration launched a “whole-of-government” response, directing hundreds of millions of dollars in new funding to fight the outbreak and a new drug control strategy to combat it. Think of addiction more as a disease than a crime.
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A senior administration official pointed the RCP to the work in progress and dismissed Republican criticism as short-sighted. “This crisis doesn’t start or end at the border,” they said, “which is why this administration is trying to tackle untreated addiction and stop illicit drugs like fentanyl from flowing into our communities.”
Improvements have been slow but significant, according to the government. Deaths from drug overdoses have risen, but only half as much as expected, according to the latest data from the CDC, About 107,000 by 2021.
“We’re looking at continuing to make progress because we know there’s still a long way to go,” HHS said. Xavier Becerra said at a news conference last week. “We’re not going to let stigma drive us anymore. We’re going where we need to be to help people thrive.”
Biden and Rahul Gupta, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, have repeatedly said that ending the opioid epidemic remains a “top priority.” In October, Gupta noted that “we lose an American every five minutes” and called on Congress In an interview with Fox News More funding to combat fentanyl trafficking.
“We hosted families at the White House, heard directly from the bereaved and discussed how we can work together to save lives,” said Gupta, who was confirmed by the Senate in November and traveled to the southern border. Observe the situation directly. “I’ve met a lot of families with similar stories in red states and blue states; it’s not a partisan issue.”
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid often prescribed as a powerful pain reliever, but its low cost and easy availability make the drug an unfortunate contributor to the opioid epidemic. Mexican cartels synthesize chemicals from China to make drugs, which are then shipped across the southern border. Both Republican and Democratic administrations have worked to stem that flow.
“The economics of fentanyl just drove other drugs out of the market,” said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, associate dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. told the New York Times. “It’s so cheap to buy fentanyl and turn around and put it in everything.”
The government has channeled the new funding into programs aimed at treating addiction and working to make more accessible naloxone products that can reverse overdoses in emergency situations.Biden also directed the Treasury Department in December to begin targeting the finances of anyone linked to cartels that smuggle drugs into the U.S.
But the fundamental partisan divide remains over how to secure the southern border, with Republicans complaining that Biden has neglected his duty to do so. Rep. Kat Cammack of Florida called it “criminal negligence.”
“Biden’s blindness to what’s happening on our southern border and in our communities has caused collateral damage to countless families who have lost children,” said Rep. Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin.
“I urge President Biden to meet with us and hear the stories of the young victims of the fentanyl crisis,” added Rep. August Pfluger of Texas.
The president’s casual comments on the border last Tuesday touched a nerve with families bereaved by fentanyl. Theresa Juillerat met with House Republicans to share how her son died of a fentanyl overdose, saying the remark was “an insult.” The bereaved Indiana mother argued that while the number of fentanyl-related deaths is at a record high, the lives of the victims “don’t seem to matter enough for President Biden to take seriously.”
Syndicated under license from RealClearWire.
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