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Tom Marino Out as Trump’s Drug Czar Nominee, Again

October 17, 2017
In this 2011 photo, Rep. Thomas Marino, R-Pa., is flanked by then-House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left, and then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Va., right. (Susan Walsh/AP)
WASHINGTON (AP) — Rep. Tom Marino, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the nation’s drug czar, is withdrawing from consideration following reports that he played a key role in weakening the federal government’s authority to stop companies from distributing opioids.

Marino “has informed me that he is withdrawing his name from consideration as drug czar,” Trump tweeted Tuesday. “Tom is a fine man and a great Congressman!”

Trump’s announcement comes a day after the president raised the possibility of nixing the nomination following reports by The Washington Post and CBS News. The reports detailed the Pennsylvania lawmaker’s involvement in crafting a 2016 law, signed by President Barack Obama, that weakened the Drug Enforcement Administration’s authority to curb opioid distribution.

Interviewed on Tuesday by Fox News Radio’s Brian Kilmeade, Trump said Marino told him that “if there’s even a perception that he has a conflict of interest … he doesn’t want anything to do with” the job. Trump did not say when he and the congressman spoke.

“He felt compelled. He feels very strongly about the opioid problem and the drug problem and Tom Marino said, ‘Look, I’ll take a pass,’” Trump added.

Trump had told reporters during a news conference in the White House Rose Garden on Monday that he will look “very closely” at the news reports. He added: “If I think it’s 1 percent negative to doing what we want to do, I will make a change,” he said.

Democrats had called on Trump to withdraw the nomination. Marino could not immediately be reached Tuesday for comment.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Marino’s decision was the “right decision.”

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, whose home state of West Virginia has been among the hardest-hit by the opioid epidemic, welcomed the news.

“We need a drug czar who has seen these devastating effects and who is passionate about ending this opioid epidemic,” Manchin said Tuesday.

Manchin had scolded the Obama administration for failing to “sound the alarm on how harmful that bill would be for our efforts to effectively fight the opioid epidemic,” which kills an estimated 142 people a day nationwide.

In a letter to Trump, Manchin called the opioid crisis “the biggest public health crisis since HIV/AIDS,” and said, “we need someone leading the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy who believes we must protect our people, not the pharmaceutical industry.”

60 Minutes Did Him In

The Washington Post and 60 Minutes reported Sunday that the drug industry worked behind the scenes with lobbyists and key members of Congress, including Marino, pouring more than a million dollars into their election campaigns. The major drug distributors prevailed upon the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Justice Department to agree to the industry-friendly law, which undermined efforts to restrict the flow of pain pills that have led to tens of thousands of deaths.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the bill’s lead Senate sponsor, defended the measure Monday, calling allegations that he or Marino “conspired” with drug companies “utterly ridiculous.” Hatch, a 40-year veteran of the Senate, said he was “no patsy” of the drug industry.

The language affecting DEA enforcement authority was suggested by DEA and the Justice Department, Hatch said, adding that the agencies could have tried to stop the bill at any time — or recommended that Obama veto the measure.

“Let’s not pretend that DEA, both houses of Congress and the Obama White House all somehow wilted under Representative Marino’s nefarious influences,” Hatch said.

A White House commission convened by Trump and led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has called on Trump to declare a national emergency to help deal with the growing opioid crisis. An initial report from the commission in July noted that the approximate 142 deaths each day from drug overdoses mean the death toll is “equal to September 11th every three weeks.”

Trump has said he will officially declare the opioid crisis a “national emergency” but so far has not done so. He said Monday he will make the designation next week.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said Monday she will introduce legislation to repeal the 2016 law.

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  • Rainey

    If politicians are genuinely concerned about ending the opioid “epidemic”, they need to create a plan to end the importation of Chinese-made fentanyl and its analogue, carfentanyl. Those two synthetic opioids are directly responsible for killing more than 20,000 drug users in 2016, up from 3,000 deaths just three years ago (New York Times, 10/18/17). Heroin is in second at 15,000, and more than 14,000 deaths were due to prescription drug overdoses, a number that has been decreasing in recent years. Part of the reason is that fentanyl is manufactured in China and far cheaper than heroin and pricey pharmaceutical narcotics.
    So, in typically hysterical fashion, the DEA has decided the “solution” to the epidemic is to force American drug manufacturers to stop making huge amounts of opioids. Never mind that people are dying from unknowingly ingesting a Chinese import that is 50 times stronger than morphine (carfentanyl, an elephant tranquilizer, is 10,000 times stronger than morphine). The DEA is ready to take on evil-doers that are RIGHT HERE IN AMERICA, and easier to prosecute than fentanyl manufacturers in China, a country that does not have an extradition agreement with the US.
    Even legal opioids prescribed to relieve pain caused by documented medical conditions are now nearly impossible to get. The DEA’s witch hunt has terrified physicians and pharmacies alike; most are refusing to treat chronic pain patients.
    In their infinite wisdom, the DEA has decided that making costly, hard-to-get prescription pain meds even more unobtainable will somehow reduce the number of overdose deaths. Chinese-made fentanyl is coming into the US by the truckload and killing thousands of users, but it’s Oxycontin, vicodin, demerol and hydrocodone causing the problem? The DEA is going after easy targets while the real predators are laughing and staying safely out of reach.
    Does the fact that legal Chinese-made products are essential to American prosperity have anything to do with it?

    • Happinessisadd

      You know we (USA) use/force these other countries to make us these drugs… We have fentanyl being made here that’s just as bad, in Arizona, but China has the best conditions to make the stronger, more potent opioids.
      We thought it was best grown in the middle east but China has the better climate…

      Do you Rainey, believe it’s the DEA making it seem they are fighting the drug fight for American people or do you over look the fact they fight for the pharmaceutical companies, that ‘donate’ thousands of dollars yearly.
      Did you happen to donate $100,000 this year to help reduce the drug doses and production.. or did you just complain about where the drugs came from?
      There’s much to say but no money to support such words.