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McCain's Tobacco Bill Draws More GOP Fire


White House to use new smoking report to pressure Congress

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, April 26) -- Sen. John McCain, the chief architect of a tobacco bill now making its way through the U.S. Senate, said Sunday he still thinks legislation will emerge from Congress this year that largely follows the framework of his proposal.

But opposition to the Arizona senator's plan from within his own Republican Party continues to build, with two key GOP senators saying Sunday that his bill won't survive the legislative process.

"I think Senator McCain deserves a lot of credit in getting a bill out of the Commerce Committee," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, on NBC's "Meet The Press" "But virtually everybody knows that that cannot be the final bill."

"I think it's going to have to be more stripped down in order to pass," said Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., who is a member of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's tobacco task force, on CBS's "Face The Nation."

White House to unveil minority smoking report

Meanwhile, CNN has learned that the Clinton administration will use the release of a report on minority smoking Monday to ratchet up pressure on Congress to enact tobacco legislation this year.

Three sources familiar with the report, prepared by Surgeon General David Satcher, tell CNN that it shows smoking among African-American and Hispanic teen-agers is rising at rates faster than smoking among white teen-agers.

The study links the increase to tobacco advertising and sponsorships targeted at minority communities and events, the sources said.

Clinton is to accept the report from Satcher at a White House ceremony.


Hatch: McCain bill will create black market

Hatch, who has called McCain's bill "pitiful," says Wall Street analysts will testify at a Senate hearing Wednesday that the draft, which calls for a $1.15-per-pack new tax on cigarettes, will push prices to more than $5 per pack.

"Now can you imagine, that's an average of over $1,000 a year for the 48 million people where the husband and wife smoke one pack a day," said Hatch, who predicted that making cigarettes that expensive will create a black market.

Hatch also said he thinks McCain's bill will force some tobacco companies into bankruptcy, a claim the tobacco industry has also made. But McCain, also speaking on "Meet The Press," said he doesn't believe big tobacco's dire predictions.

"Remember, these are the same people that said they didn't entice kids in America to smoke, and we found out they did. These are the same people that said they didn't manipulate the content of cigarettes in order to addict American citizens [and] we found out they did," McCain said.

Coats: Tobacco money can't go for social spending

But Coats said Republicans won't be willing to raise tobacco taxes -- and McCain's bill would raise them by more than $500 billion over 25 years -- unless the money were earmarked for programs related to paying for the health-care costs of tobacco or decreasing tobacco use.

"If [the money] is going to be spent on more of the president's social spending programs or other programs not related to tobacco, Republicans simply aren't going to go along with it," Coats said. "We're not going to just simply vote in billions more dollars to be spent on some of the president's pet proposals."

Daschle: GOP chorus against bill comes from tobacco

McCain's bill passed the Commerce Committee, which he chairs, by a vote of 19-1 -- a margin he said indicates how much support his framework has among lawmakers.

But since then, five major tobacco companies have said they won't go along with the bill, and a number of Republicans, including House Speaker Newt Gingrich, have expressed reservations about McCain's approach.

On Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, said he thinks the newfound GOP criticism of McCain's bill is the result of the decision by the tobacco companies to fight it.

"Unfortunately, this may be a case, a classic case, of following the money," Daschle said on "Face The Nation."

"It seems to me the tobacco companies have had too cozy a relationship with Republican leadership for too long. And it seems as soon as the tobacco companies chose to back away and to get out of the deal, Republican leadership followed. That's wrong," Daschle said.

Coats dismissed Daschle's charges as "election year partisan politics."

CNN White House Correspondent John King contributed to this report.

In Other News

Sunday April 26, 1998

McCain's Tobacco Bill Draws More GOP Fire

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