June 9, 1998
S.1415 Tobacco Control Legislation: Stop the Filibuster Tactics, Pass a Bill for Public Health
Statement of Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook
Public Citizen has worked on the problem of tobacco for over 25 years and time after time we?ve seen Big Tobacco crush or manipulate intended public health legislation.
For a generation Big Tobacco has used its profits from addicted consumers to buy legislatures, non-profit groups and public opinion. Last year, 70 per cent of the tobacco industry PAC money went to Republicans. It also gave the Republican Party $2.48 million in soft money, spent $35.5 million lobbying the Congress and the Executive, and besieged the Capitol with 208 lobbyists. And now that investment is beginning to pay off.
Over the last two weeks the Senate has vastly improved the substance of the tobacco bill and improved its prospects for passage. But since this bill has been recast into a public health measure, the Congressional leadership has begun to use delaying tactics to kill it.
We are now into the third week of floor consideration on this bill in the Senate. Despite bipartisan support, some Republicans want to talk about anything but tobacco. They don’t want to talk about the hundreds of thousands of consumers addicted as children and killed each year by tobacco products. The leadership wants to run out the clock on this bill. If it doesn?t pass the Senate shortly there will be little time for House action.
They are engaging in delaying tactics because the strong support for the Gregg-Leahy amendment on immunity and the Durbin-DeWine amendment improving the lookback provisions show that in 1998 the Senate is ready to protect children and families, not the tobacco companies.
The American public is watching this debate, assessing the decisions of the Congressional leaders, and waiting to see which senators are acting in the interests of Big Tobacco by trying to prolong debate. Those senators will face the public?s judgment in November. A vote against cloture is a vote to kill this bill, a vote for the industry and a vote against the people.