Tom Marino, a Pennyslvania congressman, withdrew his nomination to be the Trump administration’s drug czar on Tuesday morning, days after 60 Minutes and The Washington Post reported that he had pushed the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act in 2016, which has hobbled the federal government’s ability to fight the opioid crisis. That law made it very difficult—and arguably impossible—for the DEA to stop suspicious shipments of a number of drugs, including opioids. Marino, the Post reported, has received over $100,000 from political action committees tied to pharmaceutical companies. Marino has still not explained why he pushed this legislation.
That Marino would withdraw his nomination before Senate hearings even began is not surprising, given these revelations. On Monday, President Trump hinted that it was an inevitability. A day later, Trump confirmed the news, taking to Twitter to praise Marino’s character:
The administration has lost a number of high-profile officials in its first nine months, so premature departures are not particularly notable. But the fact that Marino was selected in the first place is nevertheless an incredible failure of even basic vetting and another sign that the administration is not serious about combating the opioid crisis. (Trump will finally follow through on his promise to declare it a national emergency next week.)
Sponsoring the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act was bad enough. But Marino’s legislative career has been scandal-plagued from the beginning. In 2010, when he was running for Congress, Mother Jones reported on his alleged mob ties. Given Marino’s history, his sponsorship of a law that hobbled the DEA’s ability to combat opioids, and his deep ties to the pharmaceutical industry, that he was even considered, let alone selected, for the position of drug czar should be a scandal in and of itself.