Trump drug czar nominee withdraws – The Hill
Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) is withdrawing his name from consideration as the nation’s drug czar, President Trump announced Tuesday.
“Rep.Tom Marino has informed me that he is withdrawing his name from consideration as drug czar. Tom is a fine man and a great Congressman!” Trump tweeted.
Rep.Tom Marino has informed me that he is withdrawing his name from consideration as drug czar. Tom is a fine man and a great Congressman!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2017
The withdrawal followed a Washington Post-60 Minutes investigation that highlighted his support for legislation that weakened the government’s ability to go after drug companies that critics said contributed to the nation’s opioid crisis.
Marino was a leader in passing the legislation last year that made it tougher for the Drug Enforcement Administration to stop suspicious shipments of drugs. The pharmaceutical industry heavily lobbied for the bill and showered Marino with campaign contributions.
The DEA, ONDCP and Department of Health and Human Services don’t have Senate-confirmed heads of their agencies, and all three play a role in the federal response to the opioid epidemic.
President Trump also said Monday he would likely officially declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency next week. It’s unclear what new authorities that would entail, as the move would be unprecedented for drug abuse.
A number of senators, including a key centrist, Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Energy: EPA aims to work more closely with industryOvernight Finance: Lawmakers grill Equifax chief over hack | Wells Fargo CEO defends bank’s progress | Trump jokes Puerto Rico threw budget ‘out of whack’ | Mortgage tax fight tests industry cloutLawmakers try again on miners’ pension billMORE (D-W.Va.), on Monday had called for the president to withdraw his nomination.
Marino — an early Trump supporter — was nominated to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy in early September with little public fanfare, but the joint Washington Post-60 Minutes investigation was sure to have made the confirmation process much harder.
In a press conference Monday, Trump didn’t offer a full-throated endorsement of his nominee and said he would be taking the new reports “very seriously.”
“We’re going to be looking into Tom,” Trump said Monday.
When asked if Marino’s sponsorship of the law undermined Trump’s confidence in his nominee, the president said, “Well, he’s a good man. I have not spoken to him, but I will speak to him and I’ll make that determination. And if I think it’s 1 percent negative to doing what we want to do, I will make a change, yes.”
The investigation would have put GOP senators, particularly those who hail from states hit hard by the opioid epidemic, in a tough spot. They would have had to choose between opposing Trump or supporting a nominee who was receiving criticism for suggestions that he helped hamper the effort to fight the opioid epidemic.
According to the investigative report, Marino was a chief advocate of a bill, passed in 2016, that reportedly undermined the Drug Enforcement Administration’s effort to stop the flow of prescription painkillers — drugs that have contributed heavily to the opioid epidemic.
The legislation passed in both the House and Senate without objection and President Obama signed it into law.
Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchGOP eyes limits on investor tax break Children’s health-care bill faces new obstaclesOvernight Finance: White House requests B for disaster relief | Ex-Equifax chief grilled over stock sales | House panel approves B for border wall | Tax plan puts swing-state Republicans in tough spotMORE (R-Utah) had come to the defense of Marino, and took to the Senate floor Monday to “set the record straight.” Hatch — who sponsored the legislation in the Senate — said he negotiated the bill with the DEA.
“Let’s be clear that DEA and DOJ themselves generated the language that critics now claim is so problematic,” Hatch said, adding the DEA and Department of Justice could have stopped the bill at any time.
“Senator Hatch does not believe one flawed report should derail a nominee who has a long history of fighting illegal drug use and of helping individuals with chronic conditions obtain treatment,” Hatch’s spokesman, Matt Whitlock, wrote in an email on Monday. “The Senator looks forward to discussing these important issues with Representative Marino further in his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.”
But some advocacy organizations were calling on their members to oppose the nomination. And Marino was facing a public backlash from Democrats.
Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children’s health insurance | Puerto Rico’s water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents’ right to sueCrying on TV doesn’t qualify Kimmel to set nation’s gun agendaTrump knocks ‘fake’ news coverage of his trip to Puerto RicoMORE (D-N.Y.) said “confirming Rep. Marino as our nation’s drug czar is like putting the wolf in charge of the henhouse.”
“The American people deserve someone totally committed to fighting the opioid crisis, not someone who has labored on behalf of the drug industry,” Schumer said on the Senate floor Monday.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — who hails from a state grappling with one of the worst opioid epidemics in the country — sent a letter to Trump Monday urging him to withdraw Marino’s nomination.
“The legislation that Congressman Marino pushed has tied the hands of the DEA in their efforts to enforce our nation’s laws and ensure that these wholesalers and other industry actors alert authorities to these suspicious orders instead of simply profiting from them,” Manchin wrote in the letter.
“His advocacy for this legislation demonstrates that Congressman Marino either does not fully understand the scope and devastation of this epidemic or ties to industry overrode those concerns. Either option leaves him unfit to serve as the head of the ONDCP.”
West Virginia’s other senator, Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Moore CapitoLawmakers try again on miners’ pension billHow the effort to replace ObamaCare failedIt’s time to eliminate the secretive Pharmacy Benefit Manager pricing practicesMORE, also expressed doubts, saying in an emailed statement Monday that Marino would need “to address the accusations that were raised” in the report.
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