Pennsylvania Rep. Tom Mariano has withdrawn himself from consideration as White House drug czar following reports that he supported legislation that weakened federal control over drugs – in effect contributing to the opioid crisis.
On Sunday, The Washington Post reported that Mariano and other lawmakers convinced the DEA and the Justice Department to pass legislation that would make it harder to limit the flow of addictive pain pills. According to the report, the pharmaceutical industry gave Mariano nearly $100,000 in campaign contributions.
The bill was signed into law in April 2016.
Trump faced pressure from lawmakers to remove Mariano as soon as the reports surfaced.
Nominating Mariano would be like “putting the wolf in charge of the henhouse,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) told CNN that Mariano would become drug czar “over my dead body.”
“The opioid crisis demands that the next drug czar is solely focused on getting communities across the country the help they desperately need. I hope the Trump administration nominates someone that fits the bill,” said Manchin.
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) was one of the few to defend Mariano, calling claims that he conspired with drug companies “ridiculous.” Hatch argues that the DEA could have tried to stop the bill at any time. “Let’s not pretend that DEA, both houses of Congress, and the Obama White House all somehow wilted under Representative Mariano’s nefarious influences.”
Trump responded to the chaos by promising to take a serious look at the reports, but Mariano did the work for him by deciding to withdraw. “He was very gracious,” said Trump. “He didn’t want to even have the perception of a conflict of interest with drug companies or insurance companies.”
At the same time, Trump announced plans to declare a “national emergency” on the opioid epidemic.
According to a Washington Post report, deaths related to heroin have increased more than 500% since 2002; deaths related to fentanyl have increased 600% since 2015.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) says she is working on legislation to repeal the 2016 law. She called Mariano’s decision to withdraw “the right decision” and looks forward to the nomination of “a leader that can aggressively bring to bear every tool the government has to confront what is unquestionably a national public health crisis.
Author’s Note: McCaskill is right in that opioids have become a national health crisis. Tens of thousands of people have died, and we need a leader who will stand up to the drug companies and refuse to be bribed into passing legislation that will allow them to keep making money off the suffering of American citizens.
Editor’s note: If the reports are true, then Mariano truly was not the right man for this job. I’ll give credit where credit is due, the Wash Post actually made a positive difference.