Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) called a report that led Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) to withdraw as President Donald Trump’s “drug czar” nominee “complete baloney” on Wednesday. Given that Hatch himself has raked in hundreds of thousands in donations from pharmaceutical and health contributors over the years, his comments were hardly surprising.
The Washington Post report detailed a law that ultimately undermined the Drug Enforcement Authority’s (DEA) ability to go after drug distributors, which was sponsored by Marino in the House and by Hatch in the Senate.
In short, the bill made it more difficult for the DEA to stop drug distribution companies who were potentially supplying pills to doctors and pharmacists who then sold the drugs on the black market. While the DEA had been able to fine distributors making suspicious sales — often millions of pills at once — Hatch and Marino’s law made it nearly impossible for the DEA to freeze suspicious shipments, according to the Post.
According to the report, the bill was the result of aggressive lobbying by the pharmaceutical industry.
Marino took much of the heat following the Post’s report, considering he was the nominee to head up Trump’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, and that he pushed the law in the midst of an opioid crisis. (Marino withdrew from consideration on Tuesday.)
Rep.Tom Marino has informed me that he is withdrawing his name from consideration as drug czar. Tom is a fine man and a great Congressman!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2017
But Hatch, too, has close ties with the pharmaceutical industry. From 2013 to 2017 alone, the pharmaceutical and health product industry has lined the veteran senator’s pockets with more than $583,000.
Most members of Congress were not aware what the effects of the bill would be, according to the Post and members like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and others who spoke to the media following the release of the report.
But Hatch claimed otherwise when he addressed the controversy briefly before a committee hearing Wednesday.
“Every member of the committee supported the bill twice, first in committee and then on the floor,” Hatch said. “I don’t want to hear anyone claim they didn’t know anything about the bill.”
Tough luck, it seems.
“They made it and camouflaged it so well that all of us — all of us — were fooled,” Manchin said in an interview on CBS News Monday. “That bill has to be retracted.”
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who was being treated for cancer during the vote, has introduced legislation that would repeal Marino and Hatch’s bill.
“There’s a lot of blame to go around,” McCaskill said on CNN Monday. “I don’t know that I would’ve objected. I like to believe I would have… [but] once the upper levels of the DEA said it was okay, that gave it the green light.”