Clinton Says A Tobacco Compromise Still Possible
But a move to end Senate debate fails on 56-42 vote
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 9) -- President Bill Clinton said Tuesday he still thinks it is possible the Senate will approve comprehensive tobacco legislation, even as a Democratic move to end debate and force a vote on the $516 billion measure fell short.
"I think there may be some developments this evening which will make that possible," Clinton said in an afternoon news conference with South Korean President Kim Dae-jung. "I do believe that the possibility of getting a comprehensive bill out of the Senate is greater now than it was this morning."
But Clinton would not disclose any specifics on the developments.
Earlier Tuesday, the Senate blocked a Democratic attempt to end debate on the tobacco legislation, aimed at discouraging youth smoking by raising the price of cigarettes by $1.10 a pack. There were no signs of compromise at the time.
"There is no movement toward any kind of consensus," Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) told reporters.
Republicans have attacked the legislation as too expensive, advocating passage of a less costly bill that would include tax breaks for working-class Americans to counteract the increased cost of cigarettes.
The president rejected such proposals. "It's clear that one of the things that will lead to a reduction in teen smoking is making cigarettes more expensive," Clinton said. He added that states and the federal government need to raise funds to help pay for smoking-related medical fees, health research and anti-smoking campaigns.
The vote to end debate -- a necessary prelude to any action on the bill itself -- failed on a 56-42 vote, 18 votes short of the 60 required for cloture.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D) said after the failed vote he planned another cloture vote on Wednesday, and that Democrats will continue to hold votes daily in an effort to push the bill through the Senate.
The measure, which would also grant the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate nicotine as a drug, has been slowed in the last week by intense partisan debate over amendments.
Clinton has threatened to make tobacco an issue in next fall's congressional elections if the bill is not passed.