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Opioid Crisis: Trump Urged to Withdraw Marino Nomination as ‘National Emergency’ Looms

When The Washington Post and 60 Minutes revealed “collusion” between Congress and big pharma in undermining efforts to combat America’s opioid epidemic, the fallout was quick to arrive.

A key element of the Sunday night story was the role of congressman Tom Marino, the lead sponsor of a bill that made it more difficult for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to freeze shipments of opioids such as Vicodin and oxycodone. That all happened under the presidency of Barack Obama, but it so happens that Marino is currently Donald Trump’s pick to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

After the exposé hit, West Virginia senator Joe Manchin joined other Democrats in urging Trump to withdraw Marino’s nomination. “No state in the nation has been harder hit than mine. I have seen this epidemic destroy families and communities throughout West Virginia,” he wrote in an open letter.

Read: DEA Whistleblower Blasts Drug Distributors, Congress Over Opioid ‘Collusion’

“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,” the Democrat senator, who has some rapport with Trump, wrote.

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer also asked Trump to withdraw Marino’s nomination, saying: “Confirming Rep. Marino as our nation’s drug czar is like putting the wolf in charge of the hen house.”

Read: Trump Seeks an Ally, or At Least an Ear, in West Virginia Democrat

So what does Trump think? The president said Monday that he would declare the opioid epidemic as a national emergency next week. However, he declined to express confidence in Marino as his drug czar pick.

Trump said Marino was “a great guy,” but said he will “make a change” if he decides Marino had hindered the fight against opioid addiction.

Read: Big Pharma Is Getting Hit With a Huge Wave of Opioid Suits

Meanwhile, Democrat senator Claire McCaskill also said Monday that she would launch an attempt to repeal Marino’s Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016, as it has “significantly affected the government’s ability to crack down on opioid distributors that are failing to meet their obligations and endangering our communities.” It’s not clear how much congressional support her repeal bill would get, though.