President Donald Trump announced Tuesday, October 19, that Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) has withdrawn his name from consideration as the next head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (i.e. as “drug czar.”)
The President also tweeted that the nominee “is a fine man and a great Congressman!”
This amiable parting of ways short circuited what might have been a contentious confirmation fight.
On Sunday, October 15, the Washington Post ran a story about Marino, under the joint byline of Scott Higham and Lenny Bernstein. It emphasized that Marino, the recipient of sizeable campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry, pressed for enactment of the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act, a law Congress finally passed last year after years of effort and that makes it almost impossible for the DEA to freeze suspect narcotics shipments.
PACs representing the pharmaceutical industry contributed nearly $100,000 to Marino. Higham and Bernstein said that in total, “the drug industry spent $106 million lobbying Congress on the bill and other legislation between 2014 and 2016, according to lobbying reports.”
Left Wing View
Television host Joy Reid, the author of a recent book on the contemporary Democratic Party’s divides, re-tweeted the article that, in her words, “took down Tom Marino.” She was rather gleeful about it, too, saying that some Democrat in Marino’s home district in Pennsylvania is “surely eyeing his seat now.”
The television show 60 Minutes worked with WaPo on the underlying investigation of drug industry lobbying, Marino, and the way in which the legal industry’s drugs become street drugs.
A DEA Administrative Law Judge has prepared a law review article (now under consideration by the editorial board of the Marquette Law Review) arguing that the bill “imposed a dramatic diminution of the agency’s authority.”
Former President Obama, who signed the bill into law without fanfare during his final year in office, declined to comment for the WaPo story.
One might say that the WaPo/60 Minutes story signaled the onset of a perfect storm for the Marino nomination. The left opposes the political influence of profit-hungry unscrupulous corporations. The right demands effective law enforcement, in particular over the matter of drug use. Marino was effectively portrayed over the weekend as wearing the ‘black hat’ from either point of view.
Tuesday morning, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) told CNN that it would only be “over my dead body” that Marino would be confirmed to this post. Trump’s announcement that Marino had withdrawn came soon thereafter.
Right Wing View
The conservative blog RedState expressed satisfaction about Marino’s withdrawal in a piece posted soon after the President’s announcement. Joe Cunningham wrote a breaking-news piece on the withdrawal, ending it thus: “It is unclear who could replace Marino as a potential nominee, but it is hopefully someone who isn’t actively trying to cripple the government agency that is trying to enforce the nation’s drug laws.”
There is some sentiment on the right, though, that Marino is taking a fall unfairly. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said, “Let us not pretend that DEA, both houses of Congress and the Obama White House all somehow wilted under Representative Marino’s nefarious influences.”
Blogger Mark A., though, has written that it is a “national disgrace” that politicians are “allowing illegal drugs to infest the streets and cause deaths because they refuse to turn down the money.”
ConservativAOLA has linked to Mark A.’s post on twitter.
If indignation about the Marino legislation and its consequences continues to well up, even after his nomination as Drug Czar is off the table, then it may find other targets. Marsha Blackburn may be one of them.