BEDMINSTER, New Jersey — President Donald Trump said Thursday that he will officially declare the opioid crisis a “national emergency” and pledged to ramp up government efforts to combat the epidemic.
“The opioid crisis is an emergency. And I am saying officially right now: It is an emergency, it’s a national emergency. We’re going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis,” Trump told reporters during a brief question-and-answer session ahead of a security briefing Thursday at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey.
He said he’d be drawing up documents to formalize the declaration soon.
A drug commission convened by Trump and led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently called on Trump to declare a national emergency to help deal with the growing crisis. An initial report from the commission noted that the approximately 142 deaths each day from drug overdoses mean the death toll is “equal to September 11th every three weeks.”
Almost 500 people died from opioid overdoses on Long Island in 2016, the most ever, according to data from the Nassau and Suffolk medical examiners offices.
Trump received a briefing on the report earlier this week during his 17-day working vacation in New Jersey.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price seemed to suggest after that briefing that the president was leaning against the recommendation, arguing that the administration could deploy the necessary resources and attention to deal with the crisis without declaring a national emergency.
Still, Price stressed that “all things” were “on the table for the president.”
Earlier Thursday, Trump escalated a stunning feud against his top Senate partner, suggesting Majority Leader Mitch McConnell might have to think about stepping aside if he doesn’t deliver on the president’s agenda of health care, taxes and infrastructure.
Trump called McConnell’s failure to pass an “Obamacare” repeal last month “a disgrace.” Asked if McConnell should consider stepping aside or retiring, an outcome some conservatives are openly clamoring for, the president’s response was far from a vote of confidence.
“Well, I tell you what, if he doesn’t get repeal and replace done and if he doesn’t get taxes done, meaning cuts and reform, and if he doesn’t get a very easy one to get done, infrastructure, if he doesn’t get them done, then you can ask me that question,” the president told reporters in Bedminster.
There was no immediate response from McConnell’s office.
A sitting president openly turning on a Senate majority leader of his own party in such a fashion is practically unheard of — yet another norm destroyed since Trump’s rise on the political scene. And while the fighting words might elate Trump’s core supporters, they can only hurt broader Republican efforts to move major legislation this fall on taxes and spending while preparing for congressional elections next year where energized Democrats are rallying to retake the House. Republicans control both chambers, but the Trump factor in many races remains a mystery.
Trump’s comments came after he spent two days slamming McConnell over Twitter, writing Thursday morning that after “screaming” about repealing and replacing “Obamacare” for seven years, McConnell “couldn’t get it done.” Several hours later, the president’s tone took a motivational turn as he exhorted, “Mitch, get back to work and put Repeal & Replace, Tax Reform & Cuts and a great Infrastructure Bill on my desk for signing. You can do it!”