House GOP sheds light on fentanyl crisis, blames open border for rise in overdose deaths
House Republicans are shining the spotlight on the fentanyl crisis, which they say has been exacerbated by President Biden’s loose border policies.
At a Capitol conference, the conservative Republican study committee ceded the stage to parents whose children died of a fentanyl overdose and had come to Washington to share their stories and help lawmakers draft legislation to fight against the epidemic.
“I don’t want to hear that someone else I know and love died because of this. I don’t want mothers going to bed at night crying because they lost their child anymore” said Lori Ashenfelder, a mother from North Carolina whose son died of fentanyl poisoning last year.
More than a dozen parents whose children have died in connection with the opioid epidemic attended the event.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is 50 times stronger than heroin. Illicit manufacturing makes it widely accessible and affordable. Drug dealers often mix it with other substances, resulting in surprise overdoses.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded more than 56,000 deaths in 2020 involving synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl. The trend is upward.
Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, introduced legislation that would toughen penalties for distributing a Schedule I or II controlled substance in candy wrappers that could target children .
Last month, the Drug Enforcement Administration warned against the spread of “rainbow fentanyl,” or colored pills that look like candy. Law enforcement seized these pills in at least 18 states.
Schedule I drugs are deemed to have no medical use and are highly addictive, including heroin, LSD and ecstasy. The federal government still lists marijuana as a Schedule I drug, although many states have legalized the use of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes.
Schedule II drugs have some medically acceptable use, but have a high potential for abuse and dependence. These include fentanyl, methadone and Vicodin.
Republicans also pledged to support policies that would secure the southern border, which they say is key to mitigating the rise in preventable fentanyl deaths.
“It is truly unfortunate that the Biden administration does not recognize this because of the opening of the border on January 20, 2021,” said Rep. Tom Tiffany, Republican of Wisconsin. “What worries me here is that because of their actions on the border, they feel they cannot recognize some of what happened on the other side of the border. , i.e. a flood [of fentanyl] in the USA. »
Rep. August Pfluger, Republican of Texas, said his district’s proximity to the border gives him a clear view of the issue. He blamed the flood of fentanyl on lax immigration laws.
“It affects all my colleagues. Some of the problems with illegal immigrants are more concentrated in neighborhoods like mine, but the fentanyl problem is everywhere,” he said.
Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, Democrats insisted that the southern border was not the only source of the fentanyl crisis. They warned that Republicans were creating a biased perception linking migrants to criminals who traffic in illegal drugs.
“We actually know that fentanyl enters a lot more through ports,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, Democrat of Pennsylvania. “Some of the fentanyl goes through the border, but most of it goes through the ports, so hopefully [Republicans] don’t just use it to demonize our immigration problem.