Kennedy: GOP Will Change Stance As Elections Near
Feinstein and Hatch preparing alternate tobacco bill
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 22) -- Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) said Sunday he believes Republicans will change their stance on opposing both anti-smoking legislation and a Patients' Bill of Rights as the November elections approach.
"I think the last thing that the Republican Party wants is to go into the election as the pro-tobacco and the anti-health care party, and that's where their leaders are leading them," Kennedy said on CBS' "Face The Nation."
He said pared down anti-tobacco proposals that Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) have indicated they may offer will be seen for what they are -- in the interest of big tobacco.
"We all know what's going on. The tobacco industry is interested in some kind of watered down bill. They're more interested in the political lives of those senators rather than the lives of children that are really at risk," said Kennedy.
He said the defeat of the anti-tobacco legislation sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) does not mean that the fight over the bill is over. Rather, said Kennedy, it is the beginning of the legislative process in which such bills are repeatedly brought to the Senate floor.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told CNN's "Late Edition" that she already has an alternate anti-tobacco bill in the works.
"Sen. [Orrin] Hatch and I have one. We hope to present it sometime this week," she said.
Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark.) also appearing on "Late Edition," said he hopes it will be a scaled back version.
"It shouldn't be like the tax and spend bill that we just defeated," said Hutchinson.
Kennedy said he expects the same kind of fight when he brings his
Patients' Bill of Rights, aimed at overseeing Health Maintenance Organizations, to the Senate floor for a vote.
"We know that, at the outset, you're going to have the same kind of fight on this as we had on big tobacco. Make no mistake about it. And the insurance industries will be out there and they'll be having the same kind of battle," said Kennedy.
He said he's confident of the health bill's eventual Senate passage "by bringing it up and bringing it up and bringing it up closer and closer to the election."