Saturday, May 06, 2017

Why Tom Marino Really Turned Down Trump's Offer To Make Him Drug Czar


Wednesday Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) withdrew his name from consideration as drug czar for Señor Trumpanzee's crackpot Regime. Marino cited his mother's heart problems and dementia as the reason. Were it not for his mother's condition, Marino said he would have accepted Trump's offer to head the drug policy office. "I can't live in D.C. Monday through Friday" as he would have to as drug czar, he said. "I have to be here for my mother." The family has been told she has six months to a year to live, he said. "Due to a critical illness in my family, I have, with regret and the utmost respect, informed the White House that I must withdraw my name from consideration for Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy... I will remain in Congress and continue to support President Trump in whatever way I can."

Marino was the first Pennsylvania congressman to endorse Trump. He's got a bizarrely gerrymandered district that twists and turns from up where New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania meet near Port Jervis at the confluence of the Neversink and the Delaware rivers, north and west through Susquehanna, Bradfords and Tioga counties, due south through Williamsport and down into Mifflin and Snyder counties. The PVI is R+12 and Obama lost the district badly both times. Hillary did even worse-- winning just 30.2% of the votes there. It was Trump's second-best performing district in the state. Marino was reelected against Democrat Michael Molesevich 208,106 (70.3%) to 87,956 (29.7%). Ever since Marino beat reactionary Blue Dog Chris Carney in 2010 he's never been challenged by the DCCC and has sailed to reelection. (That's another ancillary problem with the DCCC recruiting Blue Dogs-- not only do they fail to hold their districts once Democrats find out they're not actually Democrats, they destroy the Democratic brand for multiple cycles.) Democrats barely even hold out in the one blue county in the district, Monroe.

But now people are beginning to wonder if Marino really did withdraw his name because of his mother's health situation. It turns out he probably saw Trump's proposed budget-- the one that, according to Politico's reporting "cuts about 95% of funding for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, effectively ending its mission as the lead agency in charge of combating the opioid crisis and other drug epidemics." That was the job Señor Trumpanzee was offering Marino. Thanks... but no thanks.
The office, which received $388 million in federal funding in fiscal 2017, would only receive $24 million in fiscal 2018, according to the budget proposal from the White House. The agency’s high-intensity drug trafficking program, which received $254 million in federal funding in 2017, and its drug-free communities support program, which received $100 million, would be completely zeroed out under Trump’s proposal.

The budget would also cut almost $7 million in salaries, leading to projected cuts of as many as 33 full-time equivalents. About 70 people currently work at the drug control office.

"These drastic proposed cuts are frankly heartbreaking and, if carried out, would cause us to lose many good people who contribute greatly to ONDCP's mission and core activities," acting Director Rich Baum wrote in an internal email to staff that was shared with Politico.

Baum said that he was working with the White House to save the office's funding, but two sources within ONDCP said that would be unlikely, given that the proposal cleared the White House's budget office this week.

Trump has vowed to address the nation's opioid crisis. But defunding the drug control office "is like removing the tip of the spear," said one source within the agency, noting that ONDCP is the only agency responsible for spearheading the government-wide response to drug use.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), who co-authored a major opioids bill that became law last year, forcefully opposed the proposed cuts to the office.

"We have a heroin and prescription drug crisis in this country and we should be supporting efforts to reverse this tide, not proposing drastic cuts to those who serve on the front lines of this epidemic,” he said in a statement.

...Trump recently created a new White House commission on opioids, which is led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and would be supported by Trump's 2018 budget. Advocates urging a more aggressive treatment agenda have said the White House commission is redundant and may encourage a throwback to the "war on drugs" approach to fighting opioid addiction.
Maybe his life as a lazy, carefree backbencher seemed more appealing to Marino than being Trump's budget-less Drug Czar inside the smoothly-functioning machine.

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