U.S. Rep. Tom Marino on Thursday resigned from his seat in Congress less than two weeks after the start of his fifth term to pursue a job in the private sector.
Marino's last day will be Jan. 23.
"Having spent over two decades serving the public, I have chosen to take a position in the private sector where I can use both my legal and business experience to create jobs around the nation," Marino said in a statement issued Thursday afternoon. Marino and his office did not respond to questions about the resignation.
The 66-year-old former county and federal prosecutor was one of President Donald Trump's earliest supporters in Congress. Trump nicknamed Marino and former Rep. Lou Barletta "thunder and lightning" when they co-chaired his campaign in Pennsylvania. Trump twice considered Marino for the Office of National Drug Control Policy as the nation's drug czar, but Marino, of Cogan Station, withdrew his name in both instances. Marino removed his name from consideration, however, following reports that he steered a bill through Congress that weakened the government's ability to crack down on the opioid epidemic.
Gov. Tom Wolf cannot appoint a replacement. Instead, a special election must be held with the seat remaining vacant until the election. The governor has 10 days from Marino's official resignation to set an election date. The nominees for each party would be selected through a conferee process led by county party committees throughout the district.
Marino was a U.S. attorney in the Middle District of Pennsylvania under President George W. Bush and has had several kidney issues over the years. He was first elected in 2010 in the 10th District after defeating Democratic incumbent Chris Carney. In November, he beat Democrat Marc Friedenberg in the redrawn 12th District.
"I want to thank the people for the faith they have placed in me to represent them in Congress," Marino's statement said. "It truly has been one of the greatest honors of my life. I worked in Congress to fight for the hardworking people of our region and I am proud of the work we have accomplished. I am confident that the area will continue to thrive.”
Barletta said he was saddened to hear the news.
"Tom (Marino) was one of the best members of Congress that I served with and he will be missed very much," Barletta said Thursday. "It's a loss for Congress and the district. Tom was one of the hardest working most honest sincere people I have ever met and we have become very close. I am sure he is making a decision for his family and him and wish him well."
“Tom Marino is a solid conservative, he cared greatly for his district and his country, and is a good friend. I wish him well in his future endeavors," said new U.S. Congressman Dan Meuser of the 9th District.
The timing caught some off guard. Just last Friday, Marino introduced legislation that would institute 4-year terms for members of the U.S. House.
Carolyn Conner, chairwoman, Union County Republican Committee said she was "surprised at the timing of this, so soon after the new session in Congress, and considering how well he had done in the contested November election." She first found out about the Marino resignation from a Daily Item breaking news online alert. "I immediately started getting calls," she said.
Conner does not believe that any other county committee chairperson knew of this beforehand either.
Rick Thomas, Union County Democratic Committee chairman, also acknowledged the resignation was a surprise. "But given the current state of politics, nothing shocks me anymore," he said. "His resignation seems to be par for the course."
It is clear, he said, that "Mr. Marino has an agenda that is more important than representing the people who just elected him two months ago. We'll do what we have to do, and I'm sure we'll find someone better to replace him."
Marino was twice considered by President Trump for the federal drug czar position, but Marino twice pulled his name from consideration.
In October 2017, Marino pulled his name out of the running for drug czar following a report from The Washington Post and 60 Minutes regarding his work on the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016
According to the report, Marino was among a handful of members of Congress, allied with the nation's major drug distributors, who prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to the more industry-friendly legislation, undermining efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills, according to the Post/"60 Minutes" investigation. The DEA had opposed the effort for years.
Marino, the report noted, was a key advocate for the bill. He passionately defended his actions during visits to The Daily Item. He called the report a "hatchet job" and that he regretted withdrawing his name. "I have regrets, yes. I think about it everyday, Marino said in November 2017. "I believe I would have been great for the position and in a place where I could have helped make a difference and curb this opioid problem. The dealers have to go away and this problem is an addiction and an epidemic. People who are addicted to drugs do not know what they are doing."
During his eight-plus years in Washington, eight bills sponsored by Marino were signed into law over two administrations. Among those was the RAPID Act — to streamline the process for federally-funding energy, infrastructure and construction projects — and the Eric Williams Correctional Officer Protection Act, which allows officers in high and medium security prisons to carry pepper spray.
Jim Persing, president of the Susquehanna Valley Conservatives said, "Tom Marino has been a fantastic representative for the taxpayers and people of the district. I've gotten to know him personally and have always found him honest and forthright. He has been a strong supporter of NATO, serving as a member of NATO. We'll miss him. I'm sure we have a strong bench of candidates that will try to take his place."
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican, said "Congressman Marino has served the people of Pennsylvania with integrity. His service in the U.S. House of Representatives, and as a prosecutor at both the federal and local level, is laudable. I wish Congressman Marino and his family all the best in the future."
Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairman Val DiGiorgio said, “Congressman Marino is a dedicated public servant. The Republican Party of Pennsylvania thanks him for his many contributions to the people of his district and to Pennsylvania as a whole. We wish Congressman Marino the best of luck in his future endeavors.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story