Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch called a recent report that led to the withdrawal of President Donald Trump’s drug czar nominee “complete baloney” Wednesday.
Hatch, a Republican, set aside a moment during Attorney General Jeff Sessions appearance before the Senate judiciary committee to address a weekend report from The Washington Post and CBS’s “60 Minutes” that explained how the pharmaceutical industry successfully pushed a bill through Congress that raised the burden of proof for large opiate shipments across the United States and made it tougher for the DEA to pursue charges against drug distribution companies.
Hatch, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill, called the report a “hit piece,” placing the onus on his colleagues for unanimously voting through the legislation, which became law in 2016.
“Every member of the committee supported the bill twice, first in committee and then on the floor. I don’t want to hear anyone claim they didn’t know anything about the bill,” he said.
Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pennsylvania, sponsored the bill and was awaiting confirmation to become the next White House drug czar. In the wake of the story, he withdrew his name from consideration.
Judiciary committee chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, also addressed the reports during Sessions’ hearing, denying suggestions that his committee, “put one over” on Congress when they examined the bill.
“DOJ and DEA in the last year signed off on this bill. Now former DEA employees are railing against the law, pointing fingers at lawmakers,” he said. “If DEA had problems with the bill, they were the ones that could have given expertise to warn Congress, and they didn’t. The Obama administration actually provided language for the bill and signed it into law.”
CNN’s Jedd Rosche and Tal Kopan contributed to this report.