Drug czar nominee pulls out after opioid report
President Trump’s nominee for drug czar withdrew his name from consideration this week, after it was revealed that he’d sponsored an industry-friendly law that hobbled the DEA’s efforts to combat the nation’s opioid crisis. A joint Washington Post/60 Minutes investigation detailed how Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.)—who’d been nominated to head the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy—championed a 2016 bill that made it nearly impossible for drug enforcement officials to halt suspicious bulk shipments of painkillers to pharmacies and pain clinics. He and other sponsors argued the law would help ensure patients received medications they needed. But DEA officials, who opposed the bill, complained that it undercut their efforts against drug distributors who were flooding communities with highly addictive opioids. One West Virginia town with a population of just 372 people was sent 9 million hydrocodone pills over two years.
At a White House press conference, Trump announced that he would declare the opioid crisis a national emergency “next week,” having first promised to make the declaration in August. The emergency designation would allow states to request more money for first responders and increase access to medications for addiction, among other measures. A bipartisan group of lawmakers said they would try to repeal the Marino-backed law.
What the columnists said
The government has played a “shameful role” in America’s opioid epidemic, said the Washington Post in an editorial. Since the Marino-sponsored law passed, the DEA has not been able to suspend a single suspicious shipment from an opiate distributor or manufacturer, even though “overdose deaths are skyrocketing.” It is difficult to find a clearer example of money’s corrosive effect on politics, said Clarence Page in the Chicago Tribune. The drug industry spent $102 million lobbying Congress between 2014 and 2016, including nearly $100,000 given to Marino. That may be legal, “but it looks like legal bribery at best.”
“It seems Congress doesn’t read a lot of bills before passing them,” said Jack Hellner in AmericanThinker.com. This supposedly terrible law was passed by unanimous consent, a procedure “reserved for bills considered noncontroversial.” President Obama signed it with zero objections. So when the Democrats criticize this White House for its opioid response, remember: “Someone who didn’t cause the opioid crisis is Donald Trump.” He is at least trying to clean up the mess “Obama handed him.”
If Trump truly thinks the opioid crisis is a national emergency, “he’s not treating it like one,” said German Lopez in Vox.com. Since he first promised action two months ago, more than 6,000 Americans have died of overdoses. “The declaration of a national emergency would not be a cure-all,” but it would be a start. “It is time to stop employing euphemisms” like “crisis” and “emergency,” said Matthew Walther in TheWeek.com. “What we are really in the middle of is an opioid genocide.” Drug companies are wrecking countless lives and ravaging communities to make money. And it is a judgment on this country “that we all but ignore it.”