Rep. Tom Marino, President Trump’s nominee to be the country’s drug czar, has withdrawn his name from consideration following a report that he pushed a bill that weakened enforcement of suspicious drug distributors.
The withdrawal, which Trump announced in a tweet Tuesday morning, comes just two days after the Washington Post and “60 Minutes” reported that Marino, a Pennsylvania Republican, spent years pushing for the industry-backed bill while receiving nearly $100,000 in campaign contributions from industry-affiliated groups.
The bill weakened the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to regulate opioid distributors agents suspected of misconduct, the Post reported.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) had called Monday for the nomination to be withdrawn, while Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) introduced legislation to repeal the Marino-backed bill from 2016.
At a press conference Monday, Trump said, “we’re going to be looking into Tom” when he was asked if he had confidence in Marino.
While multiple Republican lawmakers also expressed their concern regarding Marino’s nomination to STAT, the Senate sponsor of the bill Marino supported defended it.
The Post article “asserts that Congress cut out DEA’s legs from underneath it through a sinister conspiracy of deep-pocketed drug companies and their cunning allies in Congress,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said Monday on the Senate floor. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Marino’s nomination had already raised some eyebrows in drug policy circles, in part because of the way in which he described his proposal for a new type of drug treatment center for individuals facing drug possession charges, which he called a “hospital-slash-prison” at a House hearing.
It is the second time Marino has withdrawn from contention to serve as drug czar. In May, he publicly withdrew from consideration before a nominee had been announced, citing a family illness.
Richard Baum, a longtime staffer at the Office of National Drug Control Policy, will continue to serve as the office’s interim director in the absence of a confirmed director.
He has overseen the office at a critical time — since March, it has provided staff and administrative support to Gov. Chris Christie’s federal commission on the opioid crisis, which first recommended Trump declare the epidemic a national emergency.
The commission’s final report is now due in November, and Trump indicated on Monday that his administration will formalize the emergency declaration next week.
Using the Public Health Service Act to declare an emergency could free up federal resources for cities and states to use and potentially allow for access to the Center for Disease Control’s Strategic National Stockpile, which could help localities access pharmaceutical products including overdose reversal drugs.