On Politics: Barletta stands by the president; will it pay off?

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Lou Barletta, left, greets Vice President Mike Pence at an America First Policies event in Philadelphia on Monday. –

Matt Rourke | AP photo

Back on the 2016 campaign trail, candidate Donald Trump called Lou Barletta and Tom Marino “Thunder and Lightning.”

They were early supporters, and the popular Keystone State congressmen certainly brought added electricity to Trump’s appearances in Pennsylvania.

Shortly after the election, President-elect Trump rewarded Thunder and Lightning with positions on his transition team. Many thought cabinet-level positions would follow. Barletta’s name, in particular, started circulating.

There was some disappointment among supporters back home when no cabinet job followed, but Barletta — and his followers — stayed loyal to the president.

Then, on Sept. 1, 2017, Trump nominated Marino to be his Drug Czar, serving as Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

But it was not to be.

A joint report by The Washington Post and 60 Minutes found that legislation sponsored by Marino helped make it easier for opioid drugs to circulate, enabling the drug industry to profit while users suffered.

Controversy ensued. Trump said he would “look into” Marino. On Oct. 17, the congressman from Lycoming County withdrew his name.

Marino nevertheless denounced the story as “unfair reporting.”

Barletta had his Congressional colleague’s back.

“Tom would be the last person to make it easier to bring opioids into the country,” Barletta told PennLive’s John Micek, pointing out — as Marino also did — that the bill had passed without a roll call vote and that then-President Barack Obama signed it into law without objection.

“I don’t think anyone can throw stones here,” he said, pointing directly at Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey — who, the Micek story pointed out, accepted nearly $500,000 in contributions from the pharmaceutical industry between 2011 and 2016, according to the campaign finance website OpenSecrets.

The president acknowledged Marino’s withdrawal with…

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