Michael McCaul’s children have lost five friends to fentanyl. That has led him to embark on a difficult task in partisan Washington: selling fellow Republicans on a deal with the Democrats. The Texan is using his chair on the House Foreign Affairs Committee to support President Biden’s diplomacy with Mexico, the source of the illicit fentanyl that’s causing tens of thousands of fatal overdoses, and to promote bills that would give Biden more tools to fight the cartels, Politico reports. McCaul is crossing GOP colleagues who want to highlight Biden’s flagging battle against the deadly synthetic opioid. He’s pushing for floor votes at a time when the House is focused on electing a speaker and funding the government. The threat is urgent, he says, and new sanctions against the fentanyl supply chain could save lives. “My son came back from a funeral two weeks ago. His best friend died,” he said, adding that the scope of the problem demands the U.S. do more. “My oldest daughter has been to four funerals, all from high school friends.”
The McCaul family’s close encounter with the fentanyl crisis is becoming tragically common: Nearly 110,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year. That figure spiked from around 70,000 before the COVID pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and has shown no signs of abating. The Drug Enforcement Administration says that since January it has seized more than 55 million fentanyl pills, exceeding its 2022 haul already. Still, getting Republicans to back bipartisan legislation — which Biden could champion as a win — is a tough sell. In Congress, many in the GOP have seized on the bad news to call out Biden, tying it to what they see as the president’s lax border security policies. In July, then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy assembled a task force on combating the cartels to draw attention to the GOP’s willingness to take the fight to them.