WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Monday he will declare a national emergency next week to address the opioid epidemic and declined to express confidence in Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., his nominee for drug czar, in the wake of revelations that Marino helped steer legislation making it harder to act against giant drug companies.
Trump's remarks came amid widespread reaction across the political spectrum to a Washington Post/"60 Minutes" investigation that Marino was a key lawmaker in supporting the bill that sailed through Congress last year with virtually no opposition.
Democrats also called on Trump to drop Marino as his pick to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, Trump said he will have a "major announcement, probably next week" about how his administration plans to tackle opioid addiction in the U.S., a "massive problem" that he wants to get "absolutely right."
A presidential declaration could allow the administration to remove some bureaucratic barriers and waive some federal rules governing how states and localities respond to the drug epidemic.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said he was "horrified" to read details of the investigation and called for Trump to drop Marino because "there's no way that in having the title of the drug czar that you'll be taken seriously or effectively by anyone in West Virginia and the communities that have been affected by this knowing that you were involved in something that had this type of effect."
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said that she would introduce legislation to repeal the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016, which she said, "has significantly affected the government's ability to crack down on opioid distributors that are failing to meet their obligations and endangering our communities."