Biden seeks to take ‘tough’ on fentanyl mantle from Republicans

Joe Biden
The White House is ramping up its efforts to paint President Joe Biden as “tough” on fentanyl, even as Republican lawmakers have proposed significant escalations in America’s war on drugs. Carolyn Kaster/AP

Biden seeks to take ‘tough’ on fentanyl mantle from Republicans

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The White House is ramping up its efforts to paint President Joe Biden as “tough” on fentanyl, even as Republican lawmakers have proposed significant escalations in America’s war on drugs.

Biden’s team is casting Republicans as the “defund” law enforcement party as a means of countering claims from the GOP that Biden is responsible for the fentanyl crisis.


Republicans have frequently pointed to the skyrocketing number of fentanyl-linked deaths as evidence that Biden’s immigration policies are failing the country, yet the White House announced five new actions Tuesday morning aimed at clamping down on the drug’s supply chains.

Those steps include the following:

Leading a coordinated global effort with international partners to disrupt the illicit synthetic drug trade Strengthening coordination and information-sharing among U.S. intelligence and domestic law enforcement agencies Accelerating work with the private sector globally Further protect the U.S. financial system from use and abuse by drug traffickers Continue to call on Congress to close legal loopholes for illicit synthetic drugs

Senior Democratic officials note that Biden’s plan for dealing with fentanyl closely resembles his strategy for countering rising gun violence, including the opposition the plan is facing from Republicans.

“President Biden wants to leverage a whole-of-government approach to tackling a nonpartisan issue,” one official said. “Unfortunately, Republicans are more interested in scoring political points than pursuing any viable solutions. It’s one thing to talk tough, but reaching across the aisle to fix a problem that’s in every community across the country is something else entirely.”

In a statement, White House spokesman Andrew Bates took that message one step further and directly accused Republicans of aiding cartels by refusing to cooperate with the administration and actively calling for the defunding of federal law enforcement agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the FBI.

“MAGA Republican extremism in Congress is a growing threat to the fight against violent crime and fentanyl trafficking,” Bates wrote. “President Biden is working hard to prevent the flow of firearms into the hands of drug cartels, as part of a comprehensive strategy to block the flow of fentanyl into the United States. But hardcore MAGA members of Congress are doing everything they can to thwart these efforts.”

“They’re attempting to gut funding for federal law enforcement agencies and lay off thousands of border security agents in order to cut taxes for the wealthy. MAGA Republicans in Congress are trying to defund and abolish the ATF, the federal law enforcement agency responsible for helping stop the flow of firearms into the hands of gun traffickers,” he continued. “MAGA Republicans are also obstructing President Biden’s assault weapons ban, even though assault weapons purchased in the United States are arming drug cartels and enabling them to outgun law enforcement. Congressional Republicans are choosing tax giveaways for the rich over law enforcement officers, and the gun industry’s profits over Americans’ lives.”

Additionally, a number of GOP lawmakers and all three 2024 Republican presidential primary candidates have widened their proposals for dealing with the deadly drug to include calls for military action against Mexican cartels trafficking fentanyl into the U.S. via the southern border.

“I can’t understand why we’re fighting a war in Ukraine, and we’re not bombing the Mexican cartels who are poisoning Americans every single day,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) said during a February interview with Donald Trump Jr.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of the loudest Republican hawks in Congress, told Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas at a March hearing that the U.S. should “take the gloves off. They’re at war with us, we need to be at war with them.”

Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley suggested in early April that “absolutely” the government should label cartels terror groups, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy pledged to mobilize U.S. military forces against cartels, and former President Donald Trump has asked his advisers to draw up “battle plans” for attacking the cartels on Mexican soil should he reclaim the White House, as reported by Rolling Stone.

Senior Biden administration officials liken calls for military actions to the “gimmicks” Republicans pulled in the lead-up to the 2022 midterm elections, including the busing of immigrants apprehended at the border to cities on the East Coast.

One senior administration official said going to war against the cartels is “not only impractical but also dangerous” and would land the country in another unwinnable, ground war just two years after ending the decadeslong engagement in Afghanistan.


That person countered that if the GOP is serious about tackling the fentanyl crisis, lawmakers will approve Biden’s funding request for the Department of Homeland Security “rather than treat it as a political bargaining chip in hopes of gaining ridiculous total oversight” of the agency.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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