TOBACCO: Majority Leader Says McCain Bill Is Dead
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) this weekend declared that "there may never be a vote on the McCain bill," raising the prospect that there may be no comprehensive tobacco legislation enacted at all this year. Appearing on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer," Lott blamed efforts to use the tobacco bill as a big revenue source for the impasse. He said, "The problem is greed has set in. It is the usual addiction in Washington to [tax] and spend. This has gone way beyond trying to do something about teenaged smoking. This is now about money grubbing. ... [I]t has become a cookie jar, and every vote that is taken it gets worse, it gets bigger." When pressed by Blitzer, Lott repeated his "strong" contention that "at this point, [the bill] is dead in the water" (6/7). The Los Angeles Times reports that Lott's strategy reflects that he is "caught in the middle" politically. His fellow conservatives tend to oppose the bill, but with so much moderate Republican support, he feels compelled as majority leader to bring up the legislation. At this point, however, "with conservatives far more vocal than moderates, Lott appears to be signaling to the White House and congressional Democrats that they must soften the bill or risk losing it altogether" (Rubin/Weinstein, 6/8). "It's dangling by a skinny thread. Unless Democrats change their conduct, tactics and rhetoric, I will work to defeat it," Lott said Friday. Roll Call reports that Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) filed another cloture petition Friday in an effort to end debate and secure a final vote this week. But with a cloture vote tomorrow, Lott may not let Daschle call another one should he lose the first round. "We'll pull the bill and move on," Lott said (Bresnahan, 6/8).
Get A Move On
In a weekly radio address which focused on the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, President Clinton began with another call to Congress to pass the McCain bill. Arguing the bill is needed to "protect our children," Clinton said, "There's broad consensus for this bill -- it's reasonable, bipartisan, in the best interest of our children. But for weeks now the Senate hasn't acted as a few members have done everything they could to protect big tobacco by putting off a vote." Clinton concluded his tobacco remarks by demanding that the "Senate should do nothing else until it passes tobacco legislation and it should pass it this week" (6/6).
A Liberal Revolt?
Among the most vocal opponents of the McCain bill have been conservative Republicans, who say it goes too far, and liberal Democrats, who say it is too limited in scope. Sunday's Boston Globe reported that some powerful Senate Democrats "have accused the president of selling out his party for a watered-down antismoking bill and of providing [bill sponsor John] McCain (R-AZ) with a presidential platform in 2000." Sens. Joe Biden (D-DE), Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Kent Conrad (D-ND) have all accused the White House of conducting secret meetings with McCain, cutting "private deals" and not keeping them informed. "There's a perception that the White House is dealing exclusively with McCain, and he is calling all the shots," said Rep. Martin Meehan (D-MA). In response, White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said, "If you want to find a center to hold people together and bring the industry in ... you are going to have to find accommodations along the way, and there are purists who won't find this acceptable" (McGrory, 6/7).