Senate Approves Corporate Tax Bill Without FDA Tobacco Regulation Provision
The Senate on Monday voted 69-17 to approve a corporate tax bill (HR 4520) that includes a $10 billion buyout for tobacco farmers after a provision was removed last week that would have allowed FDA to regulate the manufacture, promotion and sale of cigarettes, the Washington Post reports (Weisman, Washington Post, 10/12). House members on Thursday voted 280-141 to approve the tax legislation.
The Senate in July voted 78-15 to approve a version of the tax bill with an FDA tobacco regulation provision. However, a version of the tax legislation passed earlier this year by the House did not include the FDA tobacco regulation provision, and a conference committee eliminated the provision from the final bill (California Healthline 10/8).
President Bush likely will sign the tax legislation into law.
Threats of a filibuster of the tax bill over the elimination of the FDA tobacco regulation provision "fizzled" after senators were promised a voice vote on a stand-alone FDA tobacco regulation bill (Weisman, Washington Post, 10/12). Sens. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) earlier this week had said that they might attempt to filibuster the tax bill if the legislation did not include the FDA tobacco regulation provision.
The Senate on Sunday approved a stand-alone FDA tobacco regulation bill, but the legislation likely will not pass in the House (Abrams, San Luis Obispo Tribune, 10/11). According to CongressDaily, "Senate leaders agreed to hold the symbolic votes to please senators on the losing side" (Heil, CongressDaily, 10/11).
According to the Post, the elimination of the FDA tobacco regulation provision from the tax bill represents a "major setback" for health care advocates.
Vince Willmore, director of communications for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said, "There was a big game of chicken going on in terms of who broke first." He added that House conferees were "rigged to defeat FDA authority from the start, in our view."
Paul Billings, vice president of national policy for the American Lung Association, said, "The only card we had was if we could have demonstrated a united front of all Democrats and one or more Republicans to prevent the (negotiators) from coming back without FDA regulation."
However, some health care advocates "maintained their cause still had advanced," the Post reports. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), who has supported FDA tobacco regulation, said, "There is a lot of strong support for FDA regulation of tobacco" (Morgan/Dewar, Washington Post, 10/12).
The American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in a joint statement said, "We are heartened that Congress this year came closer than ever before to enacting FDA authority into law, but we are profoundly disappointed that this historic opportunity to protect the nation's children and the nation's health was squandered" (CongressDaily, 10/11).
Kennedy said that the tax bill "allows big tobacco companies to market cigarettes to your children" (Baltimore Sun, 10/12). He added, "On issue after issue, page after page, (the bill) puts the interests of the big corporations above the public interests, and above the hopes and dreams and everyday needs of the American middle class" (Weisman, Washington Post, 10/12).
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said, "I lay this right at President Bush's door. He concurred with big tobacco" (Morgan/Dewar, Washington Post, 10/12).
In addition, the tax bill would provide "a huge one-time windfall" to pharmaceutical companies such as Eli Lilly, "allowing them to bring hundreds of billions of dollars in untaxed foreign profits back into the United States at about one-seventh of the normal tax rate," the Sun reports. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called the tax legislation the "worst example of the influence of the special interests I have ever seen" (Baltimore Sun, 10/12).