Conference Committee Approves Bill Without FDA Tobacco Regulation
Members of a conference committee on Wednesday voted 28-11 to approve a corporate tax bill (HR 4520) without a provision in the Senate version of the legislation that would have allowed FDA to regulate the manufacture, promotion and sale of cigarettes, the New York Times reports (Andrews, New York Times, 10/7).
In July, the Senate voted 78-15 to approve a version of the tax bill with the tobacco regulation provision in exchange for a 10-year, $12 billion buyout program financed by the tobacco industry that would eliminate federal quotas on the amount of tobacco farmers can grow. Under a version of the tax bill passed by the House, the federal government would finance the buyout program. The House version did not include the FDA tobacco regulation provision. The version of the tax bill approved by the conference committee would reduce the tobacco buyout program to $7 billion and require the tobacco industry, rather than the federal government, to cover the cost (California Healthline, 10/6). The tax bill moves to the House and Senate for final consideration.
Sens. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) this week have said that they might attempt to filibuster the tax bill if the legislation does not include the FDA tobacco regulation provision. DeWine on Wednesday did not confirm whether he would attempt to filibuster the tax bill, but he said, "We are keeping all our options open." "It is unclear whether there are 60 votes to invoke cloture," which would end such a filibuster and force a vote on the tax bill, CongressDaily reports. DeWine, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) likely would vote against cloture because of their opposition the exclusion of the FDA tobacco regulation provision in the tax bill. However, Senate Republican leaders said that they likely would have adequate votes to invoke cloture if necessary.
According to CongressDaily, many "Democrats are expected to vote for the tax package, even though they would have preferred that in include the FDA language" (Heil/Vaughn, CongressDaily, 10/7). Joanne Thornton, managing director for international trade policy research at the Schwab Washington Research Group, said, "There are so many provisions in the bill that are attractive to members of Congress and their constituencies" (Simon, Los Angeles Times, 10/7).
McCain said, "This bill would not have passed the United States Senate without the FDA provision in it. So what the conferees have done is remove the linchpin in the passage of this legislation in a complete sellout to the tobacco companies" (AP/Baltimore Sun, 10/7).
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said, "The only way we were ever going to get FDA regulation was to hook it to a buyout. I don't know how and when we'll ever get FDA regulation" (Barshay, CQ Today, 10/6). Kennedy said, "Today is an insidious action." He added, "The Congress of the United States turned its back on the children, and their health and well-being, and the future" (Hardin, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/7).