President Donald Trump should withdraw the nomination of Republican Rep. Tom Marino to be the nation's drug czar, a Democratic senator said Monday, citing the lawmaker's role in passing a bill weakening the Drug Enforcement Administration's authority to stop companies from distributing opioids.
The Washington Post and CBS's "60 Minutes" reported Sunday on the 2016 law and Marino's role in it.
Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said he was horrified at the Post story and 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" that 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."
The Post reported Sunday that Pennsylvania's Marino and other members of Congress, along with the nation's major drug distributors, prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to an industry-friendly law that undermined efforts to restrict the flow of pain pills that have led to tens of thousands of deaths.
The Post called the 2016 law, signed by President Barack Obama, "the crowning achievement of a multifaceted campaign by the drug industry to weaken aggressive DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market."
The 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 newspaper reported.
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 approximately 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.