(NewsNation) — In his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Joe Biden asked Congress for support to stop fentanyl trafficking across the southern border. This comes as Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, leading the GOP response, said the U.S. is experiencing the worst border crisis in American history.
Among those at the Capitol listening to Biden’s address was a heartbroken father from Newton, New Hampshire. Before the remarks, the father, named Doug, had written the president and first lady about his daughter Courtney.
According to Biden, Courtney’s discovery of pills in high school spiraled into addiction and eventually her death from a fentanyl overdose. She was just 20 years old when she died.
It’s a tragic story Biden called “all too familiar to millions of Americans.” Republicans say fentanyl flowing across the U.S.-Mexico border is exacerbating overdose deaths.
“As a mom, my heart breaks for every parent who has lost a son or daughter to addiction. 100,000 Americans a year are now killed from drug overdoses, largely from fentanyl pouring across our southern border,” Huckabee Sanders said.
In describing the last eight years without his daughter, Doug told the president, “There is no worse pain.” It’s a pain with which thousands of Americans are grappling.
According to the president’s address, fentanyl is killing more than 70,000 Americans each year. It’s why Biden says he wants to launch a “major surge” at the border to stop the production, sale and trafficking of fentanyl.
To do that, Biden said he is aiming to bring more drug detection machines to inspect cargo and stop pills and powders at the southern border. He also advocated for cracking down on couriers such as FedEx, by inspecting more packages and handing down stronger penalties.
As Biden outlined his vision for the southern border and combating fentanyl trafficking, hecklers in the chamber could be heard shouting, “It’s your fault!”
NewsNation political editor Chris Stirewalt said the heckling was prompted by lawmakers wanting attention and fundraising dollars.
“The thing that those folks want is, they want to be identified for breaking decorum. They want to be identified for being awful to Biden. They want to do that because right now they’re on Steve Bannon’s podcast or whatever the heck they’re doing, and that’s worth fundraising dollars and that’s worth points for them. That’s worth things in deep, deep red districts. So we have a perverse incentive structure here that gets people to do things that they wouldn’t do in front of their mothers,” Stirewalt said.
Despite the boisterous responses during the address, Biden appeared to punt the responsibility of resolving border issues to Congress.
“America’s border problems won’t be fixed until Congress acts,” Biden said. “If you won’t pass my comprehensive immigration reform, at least pass my plan to provide the equipment and officers to secure the border, and a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, those on temporary status, farm workers and essential workers.”
But the GOP says Biden not securing the border, among other political conflicts, means he is “unfit” to be commander in chief.
“The Biden administration refuses to secure the border and save American lives,” Huckabee Sanders said.
Biden’s remarks come as the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability held a hearing Tuesday to question sector chiefs on the front lines of the border about the flow of fentanyl into the U.S. The president said in the last several months, 23,000 pounds of fentanyl near the border have been seized.