Jul. 13 2004
Washington, DC — In the only direct vote Congress has taken to date on the issue of a tobacco buyout, the U.S. House of Representatives today voted for an amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations bill that prohibits the use of taxpayer money to administer a buyout. The House adopted the bipartisan amendment, offered by U.S. Representatives Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), on a voice vote.
This vote sends a clear message that the taxpayer-funded tobacco buyout included in the House-approved FSC corporate tax bill could not pass on its own in Congress and should be abandoned in favor of a better way that both protects public health and helps tobacco farmers. Congress should pass effective Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority over tobacco products along with a responsible tobacco buyout that is paid by tobacco companies, not the taxpayers. Time is short in this Congress. If the Congress is going to consider a buyout for tobacco growers, it should do so only in the context of a responsible, industry-funded buyout that also provides the FDA with strong and effective authority over tobacco products.
U.S. Senators Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and U.S. Representatives Tom Davis (R-VA) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) have introduced strong, identical, bipartisan legislation to grant the FDA effective authority over tobacco products (S. 2461 and HR 4433). In addition, U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has introduced legislation (S. 1490) to provide a tobacco buyout that is paid by tobacco companies, not taxpayers. The Senate should act quickly to reject the irresponsible buyout included in the House FSC bill and instead pass the DeWine-Kennedy FDA bill along with the McConnell buyout bill. If allowed to come to a vote, we are confident that such bipartisan legislation would garner overwhelming support in both the Senate and the House.
As noted in today’s House debate, there are many things wrong with the $10 billion, taxpayer-funded buyout included in the House FSC bill. It does nothing to protect public health by regulating tobacco products. It makes taxpayers pay the $10 billion bill instead of tobacco companies and adds to the budget deficit. It would allow tobacco to be grown anywhere in the U.S., not just the tobacco states, and it would save tobacco companies money by reducing the price of tobacco. When the price of tobacco products goes down, more kids are likely to try them and get addicted.
We applaud the leadership in support of taxpayers and public health shown by the sponsors of this amendment, Representatives Flake and Van Hollen, along with their co-sponsors Reps. Waxman, Martin Meehan (D-MA), Todd Platts (R-PA), Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) and Lloyd Doggett (D-TX).