President Trump overrode his own advisers when he promised to deliver an emergency declaration next week to combat the nation’s worsening opioid crisis, Politico reports. “That is a very, very big statement,” he said Monday. “It’s a very important step. We’re going to be doing it in the next week.” Blindsided officials are scrambling to develop such a plan, but it is unclear when it will be announced, how or if it will be done, and whether the administration has the permanent leadership to execute it, said administration officials. “They are not ready for this,” a public health advocate said about an emergency declaration after talking to Health and Human Services officials enlisted in the effort.
Trump’s off-script statement stunned officials, who said there is no consensus on how to implement an emergency declaration for the drug epidemic. Trump had promised an emergency declaration in August, after his opioid commission headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made it an urgent recommendation. The commitment became bogged down in White House infighting and concerns about the order’s scope and cost. Members of Trump’s Domestic Policy Council, budget director Mick Mulvaney and former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price opposed the plan for months because of the multi-billion-dollar price tag, legal issues and questions about how it would be implemented. Price argued that the government could respond efficiently without taking such a step. “Everyone wants opioids to be a priority, but there’s a lot of resistance to calling it an emergency” because of the legal and budgetary implications, said a senior administration official. A senior Food and Drug Administration official said she did not know who was in charge of the emergency declaration and described the effort as “such a mess.”