Manchin calls on Trump to withdraw drug czar pick

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSenators offer bipartisan bill to fix 'retail glitch' in GOP tax law Murkowski, Manchin call for 'responsible solutions' to climate change Trump formally taps David Bernhardt to succeed Zinke at Interior MORE (D-W.Va.) is calling for the White House to withdraw the nomination of Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) to serve as the nation’s drug czar, after a Washington Post-60 Minutes investigation suggested he led a bid to weaken enforcement of the nation's drug policing laws.

In in-depth reports released Sunday, the news organizations detailed Marino’s involvement in helping pass legislation reportedly weakening the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) authority to halt drug distributors. This reportedly undermined the DEA’s effort to stop the flow of prescription painkillers, drugs that have contributed to rising overdose death rates.

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In early September, Trump nominated Marino, who was one of his early backers, to head the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). 

“The legislation that Congressman Marino pushed has tied the hands of the DEA in their efforts to enforce our nation’s laws and ensure that these wholesalers and other industry actors alert authorities to these suspicious orders instead of simply profiting from them,” Manchin wrote Monday in a letter to President Trump.

“His advocacy for this legislation demonstrates that Congressman Marino either does not fully understand the scope and devastation of this epidemic or ties to industry overrode those concerns. Either option leaves him unfit to serve as the head of the ONDCP.”

Manchin’s home state of West Virginia has been hit particularly hard by the country’s epidemic of prescription painkillers and heroin.

The state’s other senator, Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoPence, GOP senators discuss offer to kill Trump emergency disapproval resolution Bipartisan think tank to honor lawmakers who offer 'a positive tenor' Trump tries to win votes in Senate fight MORE (R), said in an emailed statement that "Congressman Marino will need to address the accusations that were raised in yesterday’s Washington Post story during his confirmation hearings."  

Marino’s office and the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Marino hasn’t had a confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and committee aides said they haven’t received his paperwork, so a hearing hasn’t been set.

Since 1999, the rate of overdose deaths from opioids has more than quadrupled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In an effort to combat the crisis, President Trump assembled a commission, which released an interim report earlier this summer.

In August, Trump said his administration was drafting paperwork to declare the epidemic a national emergency — the commission’s “first and most urgent” — though an official emergency has not been declared at this time.

Some advocates have expressed frustration that a declaration hasn’t yet been made and at the commission, arguing the epidemic has already been studied and swift action is needed.