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 Tobacco Debate Focuses On High Lawyers' Fees(05-19-98)



The 'Inside Politics' Interview: Sen. Orrin Hatch

Aired May 18, 1998 - 5:05 p.m. ET

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Well, Senator Orrin Hatch is among those who plan to offer amendments to scale back the proposed cigarette price hike. I interviewed him just a short time ago, and I began by asking him what the odds are that the tobacco bill will pass in its current form.


SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Well, it isn't even formed as we sit here. The White House has been carefully drafting the bill, and I think Senator McCain is basically accepting whatever they come up with, hoping that they will push the bill for him. So I don't know what the final form is going to be, and I really wonder if we can get any bill through at this particular time. There seems to be no real consensus.

And so unless there's -- I think it's going to go one of two ways. Either they're going to pile on the tobacco companies and just build up a very expensive bill that the tobacco companies can't live with and either break them or cause a black market to exist, or they're going to do a reasonable bill, which will attract the tobacco companies, even though they hate everything about it, to come onboard and make this matter constitutional.

Otherwise, it won't be constitutional because you have to have their voluntary consent before you can do the advertising bans and before you can have the look-back provisions that -- really might work in this final solution.

WOODRUFF: What parts of the bill do you think are most likely to be changed in the Senate?

HATCH: Well, it's hard to say because we're not sure what the bill is as of right now, because the White House has been basically drafting it right up until today with Senator McCain and his office, basically agreeing, from what I've been told, agreeing to everything the White House is coming up with.

And frankly, the White House is making this a very regulatory, over regulatory, very broad health bill, and the price is so high that it's been estimated not only the $516 billion, but it can go as high as $800+ billion, which of course, I don't think anybody in their right mind believes that the tobacco companies can pay.

WOODRUFF: As we know, you have talked about your own alternative to the legislation. There are critics saying that your proposal would not do enough to stop teen smoking.

HATCH: Well, I don't think that's true because my proposal would raise the tobacco -- the price of tobacco products to about $3.50 a pack compared to McCain's, which would be $4.50 to $5.50 a pack. The fact is that the approach that we're taking, Dianne Feinstein and myself, the Democratic senator from California, is to have a bill that will closely mirror the attorneys general agreement, which was $368.5 billion.

Ours is $60 billion more -- $428 billion. The tobacco companies aren't going to like it, but I think they're far more likely to come back to the table with our bill. In fact, I know that they're more likely to come back to the table with our bill and I don't think they could ever stomach whatever the White House bill is going to be.

WOODRUFF: But senator, given what the finance committee is doing, and isn't the sense that the momentum in the Senate right now is to make this bill even tougher than it is?

HATCH: There are two versions. One is to pile on and make it so tough it won't work and the tobacco companies will not come onboard and make it constitutional, and the other is to do it in a reasonable fashion that is tougher than the attorneys general agreement, but nevertheless, within the ballpark so you don't throw these people out of the game.

WOODRUFF: Senator, let me turn to you this Justice Department- U.S. government lawsuit against Microsoft.

HATCH: Right.

WOODRUFF: You're saying you support the lawsuit; is that correct?

HATCH: That's for sure. We've had all kinds of evidence behind the scenes that what Microsoft has been doing is wrong. And of course, the complaint is filed by the Justice Department is basically centering on the browser issue, which is a very important issue, but there's much more that will come out in the future, I believe. But it's a broad-based complaint that I think could rectify some of the problems that exist.

WOODRUFF: How do you respond to the comment from Bill Gates? Among other things, he said it's ironic that in the U.S. where freedom and innovation are core values that regulators are trying to punish a company that's worked hard and successfully to deliver on those values.

HATCH: Well, that's what Standard Oil said in their antitrust case. They owned 90 percent of the marketplace at that time just like Microsoft does. And yet, of course, what they were doing was flying in the face of the antitrust laws, which are geared to protect the consumer and to create more competition, rather than let one company dominate it all.

Microsoft has reached such a point of dominance that literally they can almost enforce whatever they want throughout the industry and people don't have any choice other than to do what Microsoft wants them to do. And if that's so, that means that innovation, competition and other matters will be stifled and the antitrust laws should be imposed.

In Other News

Tuesday, May 19, 1998

Tobacco Debate Focuses On Lawyers' Fees
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Bipartisan Commission Proposes Social Security Rescue Plan
New Details Emerge In Secret Service Privilege Dispute
Gingrich Wants Clinton To Delay China Trip

The 'Inside Politics' Interview:
Sen. Orrin Hatch

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