With No Drug Czar Nominee, Trump Farther Away From Combating Opioid Crisis

Nine months into Trump’s presidency, there is still no plan to combat the massive drug crisis.

President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden at the White House on October 17, 2017. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Pennsylvania Rep. Tom Marino is President Donald Trump’s 11th nominee to withdraw from consideration. He was slated to head the National Office of Drug Control Policy. On Tuesday morning, Trump broke the news by tweeting, “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!”

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The term “drug czar” sounds like another Trump Twitter-ism, like spelling errors, “Sad!” and “Covfefe.” However, it’s not an online trend or ironic nod to the President’s unquestionable ties to Russia. It’s a highly sought-after and critical position in the fight against the national opioid epidemic, a battle that the Trump administration has pledged to make one of its highest priorities. Marino pulled out of the race after news began circulating about his support of a pharmaceutical industry-backed law that would undercut government efforts to scale back opioid manufacturing and prescribing.

The Trump administration’s failure to appoint an adequate leader in the battle against America’s crippling opioid addiction represents a greater issue: a lack of action overall. Nine months into Trump’s presidency, there is still no plan to combat the massive drug crisis. Aside from stating that he will declare a “national emergency” to create more awareness around the issue, no efforts to create change have been set in motion. Furthermore, the Trump administration’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which provides treatment to the lower-income Americans who make up the highest percentage of users in need of rehabilitation, explicitly contradicts their “efforts” to confront the epidemic.

The legislation in question, the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act, would require higher standards for the D.E.A. to intervene on behalf of pharmaceutical companies when painkiller sales appeared suspicious. Marino referred to it as “ a balanced solution for ensuring those who genuinely needed access to certain medications were able to do while also empowering” efforts by law enforcement to protect the American public.

“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,” New York Senator Chuck Schumer argued on the Senate floor after Marino’s withdrawal. “The bottom line is this congressman supported President Trump but is the wrong person for the job.”

Although Marino withdrew his nomination, Democrats champion his stepping down as a renewed focus on finding the best person for the job and lament his initial nomination as another instance of the Trump administration valuing political gain over appointing public servants who pose the highest chance of success in aiding the opioid crisis.

“As a former prosecutor who has dedicated my life to aggressive and faithful enforcement of our laws, I have reached the difficult decision that the best course of action is to remove the distraction my nomination has created to the utterly vital mission of this premier agency,” Marino stated Tuesday following his withdrawal.

Francesca Friday is New York City-based National Politics contributor for Observer. Follow her on Twitter: @friday_tweets_

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With No Drug Czar Nominee, Trump Farther Away From Combating Opioid Crisis