President Trump promised to declare a national emergency to confront the opioid epidemic 68 days ago. Since then, more than 6,000 Americans have died of overdoses, USA Today reports. Trump says he’ll formally declare that emergency next week, a two-month delay that he said underscores the “time-consuming work” behind his administration’s response to the crisis. An emergency declaration would be a powerful rhetorical tool in focusing national attention on an epidemic that claims 91 lives every day. The impact of an emergency wouldn’t just be symbolic. It would give the Trump administration novel and untested powers: broad authority to waive patient privacy laws, divert funds and give immunity to medical professionals and first responders. Without a formal proclamation, it’s impossible to know which of these powers Trump intends to use.
Trump is preparing the order without two key advisers: Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who was fired last month for taking private jets at taxpayer expense, and Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA), whose nomination for “drug czar” was dropped after the Washington Post and “60 Minutes” reported his role in pushing through legislation to make it difficult for the Drug Enforcement Administration to crack down on shipments of opioids from drug companies to black market dealers. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, chairman of Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, said it is “not good” Trump hasn’t declared an emergency yet. “I think the problem is too big to say that if he had declared an emergency two months ago that it would make a significant difference in two months…(but) you can’t get those two months back.”