Senators Might Filibuster Corporate Tax Relief Bill Without FDA Tobacco Regulation Provision
Sens. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) this week said that they might filibuster a version of a corporate tax relief bill reported by a conference committee if the legislation does not include a provision that would allow FDA to regulate the manufacture, promotion and sale of cigarettes, the Washington Post reports (Kaufman, Washington Post, 10/4).
The Senate in July voted 78-15 to approve a version of the tax bill with the 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 (California Healthline, 7/16). Under a version of the tax bill passed by the House, federal government would finance the buyout program (CQ Today, 10/1). The House version also does not include the FDA tobacco regulation provision (CongressDaily, 10/1).
Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) last week proposed a final tax bill that would exclude the FDA tobacco regulation provision and reduce the tobacco buyout program to $7 billion (CQ Today, 10/1). Thomas likely will present the legislation to the conference committee on Monday and "hopes to have a vote on the entire package" before the current legislative session adjourns on Oct. 8, the Post reports. A majority of the senators on the conference committee must approve the bill before the Senate votes on the legislation. All Democratic senators and at least four Republican senators on the conference committee voted in favor of the Senate version of the tax bill (Washington Post, 10/4).
Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has said that the Senate would not approve a final tax bill that includes the buyout program but not the FDA tobacco regulation provision (CQ Today, 10/1).
Some Republican lawmakers oppose FDA tobacco regulation "on anti-regulation, ideological grounds and because the nation's second largest tobacco firm ... strongly opposes it," the Post reports. Supporters of FDA tobacco regulation "fear the conference report will include rules that will make it very difficult to add FDA regulation without putting passage of the entire tax bill at risk," according to the Post.
DeWine said, "FDA regulation is the most important public health bill to come up in quite a few years, and the way to pass it is by twinning it with the tobacco buyout. A de-linking of the two is simply intolerable and will occur over my dead body."
Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said, "House leadership is doing all it can to keep the two from coming together for a vote" (Washington Post, 10/4).
Scott Ballin, a committee member of the Alliance for Health, Economic and Agriculture Development -- a coalition of tobacco farmers and public health groups -- said that "there may be attempts to knock out the FDA provisions or significantly water them down."
Thomas spokesperson Christin Tinsworth said, "Chairman Thomas' objective is to make law -- ending the escalating sanctions on American exporters and providing relief to America's job creators" (CQ Today, 10/1).