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Why do Republicans keep complaining about fentanyl seizures?

Republicans keep complaining about the Biden administration stopping illegal fentanyl shipments at the border. It's getting a little weird.


In July, Republican Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona published an odd complaint. "Under Joe Biden," the Arizonan wrote via Twitter, "enough fentanyl to kill 238 million Americans was seized at the southern border last month. Where's the outrage in the media?"

It was hard not to wonder whether the congressman — the chair of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus — had thought this through. Why would anyone in the United States, other than drug dealers, complain about officials seizing fentanyl at the border? Biggs asked about the missing outrage, leading to the obvious question as to why anyone would be outraged that U.S. officials had successfully done their jobs.

And yet, that didn't stop the Republican National Committee from making the same complaint several days later, as if the seizure of fentanyl shipments was necessarily evidence of failure, rather than the opposite.

In fact, in recent months, a variety of other congressional Republicans — South Carolina's Ralph Norman, Texas' Brian Babin, Texas' Beth Van Duyne, Texas' August Pfluger — have all criticized the Biden administration over fentanyl shipments seized at the border.

Yesterday, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa published this tweet, pushing the same line. (I've edited the text slightly, converting abbreviations to actual words.)

"Welcome to President Biden's America, where 10,000 pounds of fentanyl have been seized by Customs and Border Patrol so far this fiscal year, which is enough to kill over 2 billion people or more than one-fourth of the world's population."

Let's briefly review some basic details.

Criminals have tried to smuggle illegal drugs into the United States for many years. It's happened during Republican administrations; it's happened during Democratic administrations. Criminals have focused their efforts on the southern border, the northern border, ports, and even airports. The United States' system of defense is far from perfect, but a dedicated group of professionals do their best to stop the shipments before they reach American streets.

That is, of course, what we want them to do. If officials have seized 10,000 pounds of fentanyl so far this fiscal year, that's evidence of the system working as intended.

For Republicans to criticize the seizures is a little weird. In fact, common sense suggests GOP officials should focus attention elsewhere, since the seizures disprove one of the party's favorite talking points: If the president had implemented an "open-border" policy, as the right routinely claims, U.S. Customs and Border Protection wouldn't have stopped these shipments before they entered the country.

White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates asked via Twitter yesterday, "Wait, Republicans are now attacking us for stopping fentanyl trafficking?" It's hardly an unreasonable question given the circumstances.