- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Rep. Tom Marino has withdrawn his name from consideration as the new drug czar after Democrats objected over recent reports of his lobbying for a bill that purportedly contributed to the country’s opioid epidemic.

President Trump made the announcement over Twitter on Tuesday, writing that “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!”

Several lawmakers, including Sen. Joe Manchin III, said Mr. Marino was unfit to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy after CBS News and The Washington Post reported over the weekend that the Pennsylvania Republican had pushed a bill that prevented federal agents from taking tougher action on questionable drug sales.

“Over my dead body will he be the drug czar,” Mr. Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, had said on CNN.

The bill in question was meant to prevent painkillers from going to the wrong people and protect pharmacists and legitimate drug distributors, but it made it harder for the Drug Enforcement Administration to investigate suspicious shipments of prescription opioids that could be diverted to the illicit drug market.

Mr. Manchin said Mr. Marino “weakened and allowed hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people to get killed,” adding that he expected Mr. Trump to make “adjustments” to his pick.

At a news conference Monday, Mr. Trump signaled that the nomination was in trouble. Asked whether the legislation might have contributed to the opioid crisis, the president replied, “I have not spoken to him, but I will speak to him and I’ll make that determination. And if I think it’s one percent negative to doing what we want to do, I will make a change.”

Mr. Trump explained the conversation with Mr. Marino on “The Brian Kilmeade Show” on Tuesday morning, saying the congressman felt he had “no choice” but to step aside.

“He told me, look, if there’s even a perception that he has a conflict of interest, he doesn’t want anything to do with it,” Mr. Trump said.

“He feels very strong about the opioid problem,” the president added, saying Mr. Marino, an early backer of the Trump presidential campaign, was “a fine man.”

Mr. Manchin also criticized the Obama administration for not warning that the bill, which passed under their leadership, would have such dire consequences.

“Why did not the DOJ or the DEA from the previous administration let us know that this was going to affect their ability to [do] oversight and investigate?” the West Virginia senator asked.

The bill passed Congress through unanimous consent last year and was signed by then-President Barack Obama.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Tuesday the Justice Department intends to review the 2016 law, though he stopped short of advocating for any changes.

“We are going to review it,” Mr. Rosenstein said Tuesday, flanked by the new acting DEA administrator as authorities announced a major fentanyl drug bust. “If we conclude they don’t have the appropriate tools, then we will seek more tools.”

Acting DEA Administrator Robert Patterson defended the agency’s work, saying that while the changes in the law “did impact how we looked at immediate suspension orders” of pharmaceutical distributors’ licenses, it did not stop agents from investigating matters.

Mr. Patterson, who has been on the job less than two weeks, said the DEA began relying on other tactics to address suspicious shipments. He said the number of voluntary surrenders of DEA registrations increased.

“I don’t think this notion that we slowed down is an accurate one,” he said.

Democrats were not impressed with the withdrawal of the Marino nomination.

Tom Marino’s withdrawal does nothing to show that Trump is taking the opioid epidemic seriously. Despite his rhetoric and months of repeated promises, Trump still hasn’t declared the opioid crisis a national emergency,” Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer also said Mr. Marino’s initial nomination shows a lack of leadership on the part of the Trump administration.

Rep. Marino’s decision to withdraw from consideration as drug czar is the right decision, though the fact that he was nominated in the first place is further evidence that when it comes to the opioid crisis, the Trump administration talks the talk, but refuses to walk the walk,” the New York Democrat said in a statement.

⦁ Dave Boyer contributed to this article.

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