TOBACCO: Clinton Administration ‘Smoked’ in Approp. Bill
Odds are increasing that the "states will get to keep all of their tobacco settlement money, and spend it as they see fit," as a House-Senate conference committee last night "preserved language to that effect" in a $14.7 billion supplemental spending bill designed to fund military operations in the Balkans and hurricane relief for Central America (Gibson, Lexington Herald-Leader, 5/14). The conference preserved an amendment by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) that reaffirms the states' right to the money without restrictions as to how they spend it. Hutchison said, "The states won these funds with no help from the federal government. Unfortunately, the Clinton administration and many in Congress believe that the federal government can make better decisions for Texas than Texas can." The Washington Post reports that Hutchison did not heed a request by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) that she require a "significant but unspecified percentage of the state settlement" go to tobacco-control programs. He said, "I suggested language I think would help with the administration and is something the governors could live with" so the money is not "spent on water-sewer systems or highway projects." Absent such language, White House spokesperson Barry Toiv said the administration "continue[s] to be very concerned" that the measure's passage would "continue to allow states not to spend one penny on efforts to protect kids from tobacco." The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids' Matthew Myers said, "The states have turned their backs on the problem, and last night's action shows Congress doing the same thing" (Schwartz, 5/14). But Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), who introduced a motion to keep the Hutchison language in the bill, said, "This is not the federal government's money. We have no business taking (the states') money or telling them how to spend it" (Herald-Leader, 5/14). The New York Times reports that "[s]ome members of both parties who saw the bill as politically and financially undisciplined vowed to oppose it when it comes to a final vote next week" (Weiner, 5/14).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.