May. 9 2000
Washington, DC — The CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS condemned the Senate Appropriations Committee's vote today to block funding for the U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit against the tobacco industry.
On a 14-11 party-line vote, with all Republicans voting against and all Democrats voting in favor, the Committee defeated an amendment to the FY 2001 Agriculture Appropriations Bill that would allow the DOJ to continue to fund the lawsuit with funds from other federal agencies and departments affected by tobacco-related health care costs. The Agriculture Appropriations Bill repeals this authority and requires the DOJ to return any funds it has obtained for this purpose from the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Veterans Affairs.
"Today's vote is purely and simply special protection for the tobacco industry. The Committee has voted to put the protection of tobacco company profits ahead of the protection of America's families and taxpayers, who continue to pay a high price in death, disease and health care costs because of tobacco," said CAMPAIGN President Matthew L. Myers.
"It is a sad commentary on the influence of wealthy special interests that this party-line vote comes less than two weeks after Philip Morris co-chaired a Republican fundraiser that raised more than $21 million. The tobacco industry is getting its money's worth for the $2.3 million in soft money it has contributed to the Republican Party in this election cycle," Myers said.
"The Department of Justice did the right thing by filing suit against the tobacco industry to recoup billions of taxpayer dollars spent treating smoking-caused illnesses," said CAMPAIGN Executive Vice President William V. Corr. "The suit is based on overwhelming evidence that the cigarette companies have conspired since the 1950's to defraud and mislead the American public and conceal information about the effects of smoking. This is not an industry that deserves special protection under the law, and Congress should reject any and all efforts to grant it.
"Today's vote represents extraordinary Congressional interference with the Justice Department's pursuit of a lawsuit it has filed to protect America's kids and taxpayers from the tobacco industry. We urge the full Senate to reject this special protection for Big Tobacco, and we urge President Clinton to stand firm in his continued support for the federal litigation against the tobacco companies."
Tobacco-caused disease kills more than 400,000 Americans each year and costs billions in health care costs, including more than $20 billion in federal payments under Medicare and other programs. The Justice Department suit would hold the tobacco industry financially responsible for reimbursement of these costs.
(Today's vote came during consideration of the Fiscal 2001 Agriculture Appropriations Bill, which includes a provision prohibiting the DOJ from paying for the lawsuit with funds from other federal departments and agencies affected by tobacco-related health care costs. Current law (Section 109 of the 1995 Commerce-State-Justice Appropriations Bill) allows the DOJ to use this approach to fund litigation "involving unusually high costs." A provision of the Agriculture Appropriations Bill repeals Section 109 and also requires the DOJ to return any funds it has obtained from other departments to pursue the lawsuit. Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-SC) offered an amendment to delete this provision, but it was defeated 14-11, with all Republicans voting against the amendment and all Democrats voting in favor. The DOJ has indicated that repeal of Section 109 would prevent the Department from proceeding with its lawsuit.)