TOBACCO: Senate Language Would Block Federal Suit
Language that would impede the Clinton administration's planned suit against the tobacco industry was quietly slipped by Senate Republicans into a Department of Justice funding bill that last week cleared the Appropriations Committee, the Washington Post reports. Two sentences "buried in a lengthy report accompanying" the DOJ spending bill stated "that no money is provided for a tobacco lawsuit or expert witnesses to testify in such a case." The DOJ had asked for $20 million to finance the suit. Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), chair of the subcommittee that oversees DOJ funding, said the agency "doesn't have the resources to undertake this lawsuit." He called the threat of a suit a "backdoor" effort to cash in on the multibillion state tobacco settlement. But Democrat tobacco foes Sens. Richard Durbin (IL) and Bob Graham (FL) said they would "fight to eliminate" the restrictive language. Graham said, "I don't know ... how this snuck into the report." Durbin, who sits on Appropriations, said Big Tobacco must still "think it owns a piece of this place," and promised to introduce an amendment stating that the DOJ can sue tobacco companies "on behalf of taxpayers" (Torry, 6/22). Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) said, "Once again, the Republicans have demonstrated they are in the pocket of big tobacco" (USA Today, 6/22). Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco- Free Kids said that the GOP language would "provide the tobacco industry with virtual government immunity" (Post, 6/22).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.