House Conferees Reject Provision in Corporate Tax Bill To Allow FDA To Regulate Tobacco Products
Members of a House conference committee on Tuesday voted 8-3 to defeat a Senate proposal in the corporate tax bill (HR 4520) that would allow FDA to regulate the manufacture, promotion and sale of cigarettes, despite Senate conferees' vote of 15-8 to include it, the Washington Times reports (Sparshott, Washington Times, 10/6).
The Senate in July voted 78-15 to approve a version of the tax bill with an FDA 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, federal government would finance the buyout program. The House version did not include the FDA tobacco regulation provision. The version of the tax bill in committee would reduce the tobacco buyout program to $7 billion and require the tobacco industry, rather than the federal government, to cover the cost.
Sens. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) this week threatened to filibuster the final tax bill if the legislation does not include a provision on FDA regulation (California Healthline, 10/5).
According to the Washington Post, DeWine appears to have enough support in the Senate to kill the passage of a bill lacking an FDA regulation provision before a final vote (Weisman, Washington Post, 10/6). If legislators filibuster the measure, Senate Republicans "could file a cloture motion that would force a vote by midnight Friday," according to an unnamed Republican aide, CongressDaily reports. Republican leaders "are confident they would prevail on the cloture vote," according to CongressDaily. Such action would likely lead to a final vote on Saturday (CongressDaily, 10/6).
Senators who support FDA regulation are expected Wednesday to attempt to remove the buyout provision from the bill before a final committee vote, the AP/Lexington Herald-Leader reports (Crutsinger AP/Lexington Herald-Leader, 10/6).
According to the Wall Street Journal, tobacco-state legislators "were eager to attach the buyout"; however, it could now "pu[t] the rest of the bill in jeopardy." Republican committee members "aren't inclined to drop the buyout" in part because its passage could help Rep. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) win a close North Carolina Senate race against Erksine Bowles (D), the Wall Street Journal reports (Murray, Wall Street Journal, 10/6). Those in support of the bill "expressed confidence" that work on the measure would be completed Wednesday, the AP/Herald-Leader reports (AP/Lexington Herald-Leader, 10/6).
Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) said, "The biggest enemy" to passing the bill "is called time. The pressure now is to get it done. After the election, it's less so" (Wall Street Journal, 10/6).
Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said, "I'm not only optimistic, it will be done" by Wednesday (CongressDaily, 10/6). Grassley added, "I can't see Democrats wanting to injure senators in the South," where the buyout is well-supported.
Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said, "There's a lot of tax policy in there for lawmakers. Are they going to vote against it because of one thing? They can try to kill it with a filibuster, but that's pretty irresponsible" (Barshay/Ota, CQ Today, 10/5).
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said, "There are a lot of things in this bill that are popular with members of both parties. Killing a conference report over something that isn't in it is highly unlikely" (CongressDaily, 10/6).
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) said, "This is not the time, this is not the bill and this is not the vehicle to regulate tobacco with the FDA" (Washington Times, 10/6).
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said, "This airplane has lost a wing here, and you know what happens to one-winged airplanes. They spin and crash and burn" (Washington Post, 10/6).