White House accuses GOP of siding 'with fentanyl traffickers' by opposing border bill

FIRST ON FOX: The White House is taking aim at congressional Republicans, claiming that the GOP “sided with fentanyl traffickers’ by opposing a bipartisan border deal earlier this year — days before the bill is again due to hit the Senate, where it will likely face stiff GOP opposition. 

The White House is touting the legislation, which would provide funding for border operations, and includes a mechanism to stop entries into the U.S. when encounters reach a certain level. The bill failed a test vote in February, by a vote of 49-50, short of the 60 votes needed to proceed. But, in a letter to senators dated Sunday evening, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., revealed his plan to bring the bill to the floor again.

At the heart of the bill is a new temporary emergency border authority to mandate Title 42-style expulsions of migrants when migration levels exceed 5,000 a day over a seven-day rolling average. It also narrows asylum eligibility while expediting the process, provides additional work permits for asylum seekers and funds a massive increase in staffing and other resources at the border.

Conservatives have rejected it, saying it doesn’t go far enough and would regularize already-high levels of illegal immigration. But the Biden administration has consistently thrown its support behind the bill, saying it will give the administration a greater ability to tackle the border crisis, and has accused Republicans of rejecting the bill for political purposes.


In a memo, obtained first by Fox News Digital, Senior Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates said that President Biden has made cracking down on fentanyl a top priority, and said the legislation would make significant steps in tackling the smuggling of the deadly illicit drug across the border.

“And fighting back against the spread of illegal fentanyl is one of many compelling reasons to support the toughest, fairest bipartisan border security legislation in modern history,” he said.

Illicit fentanyl is predominantly created in Mexico using Chinese precursors and then smuggled across the U.S. land border. Bates highlighted provisions in the bill that he said would fund 100 machines to detect fentanyl in vehicles attempting to cross into the U.S.


“The bill also provides for hiring thousands of new law enforcement personnel at the border to operate those machines and work to stop fentanyl from entering our country and costing more innocent lives,” he said.

He noted that supporters of the bill had spotlighted those measures when unveiling the deal, including Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla. Lankford was one of only four in his party to vote in favor of moving forward with the negotiated bill in February. It’s unclear if he would support it again. 

“But instead of supporting legislation endorsed by the Border Patrol Union, congressional Republicans sided with fentanyl traffickers,” Bates wrote in the memo. “Rather than working across the aisle to stop fentanyl trafficking, most congressional Republicans stopped legislation to save American lives from fentanyl.”

Bates accused Republicans of opposing the bill “sheerly out of politics” and under pressure from former President Donald Trump, and then teed up the vote in the Senate later this week.

“So Congressional Republicans have to choose: will they again decide that politics is more important than stopping fentanyl traffickers and saving the lives of innocent constituents?” he said.

“Joe Biden knows where he stands,” he added.


Republicans have united against the bill, and have rejected claims that their opposition is political, arguing instead that the bill would lock in the existing historic crisis.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., last week discussed the potential revival of the measure, telling Fox News host Maria Bartiromo that Democrats weren’t operating in good faith during the negotiations. 

“Democrats were always negotiating for political cover with their failed border bill,” he wrote on X. 

“That will still be the case if they decide to bring it up again. It was an awful bill, that’s why it died within 24 hours of it being introduced,” he added. 

“The fake border bill will fail, again, because it does nothing to seriously secure the border – just cement outrageous levels of illegal immigration,” wrote Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. 

In a statement, Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn., and Republican conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., said, “Leader Schumer is trying give his vulnerable members cover by bringing a vote on a bill which has already failed once in the Senate because it would actually codify many of the disastrous Biden open border policies that created this crisis in the first place.

They have instead called for the passage of border security legislation that was passed in the House last year. That bill would continue border wall funding, and shut down parole processes into the U.S. among other provisions.

“If Senate Democrats were actually serious about solving the problem and ending the border catastrophe, they would bring up H.R. 2 and pass it this week,” they said. 

Fox News’ Julia Johnson contributed to this report. 

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