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Chairmen Calling Dibs On Tobacco Bill Chairmen Calling Dibs On Tobacco Bill

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Chairmen Calling Dibs On Tobacco Bill

Legislation to give FDA authority over tobacco products is encountering bumps in the road as House chairmen line up to stake claims on certain provisions, some of which were added at the last minute to get the bill through a House Energy and Commerce markup this month.

House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel and House Natural Resources Chairman Nick Rahall sent letters recently to Speaker Pelosi asserting their jurisdiction over the bill.

 

Opponents of the bill are expected to approach other committees, such as the House Appropriations Committee, to raise additional jurisdictional concerns, a lobbyist opposed to the bill said.

Rangel sent his letter April 3, the day after the Energy and Commerce markup, and Rahall sent his letter Wednesday. Jurisdictional spats are commonplace, an Energy and Commerce staffer said.

But the funding issue raised by Rangel is proving a thorn in the committee’s side as Energy and Commerce already thought it had worked out the problem.

 

Rahall’s concerns are related to language added in a manager’s amendment during markup to please retailers that has since caught the eye of Indian tribes.

Rangel claims a fundraising mechanism in the bill lands it in Ways and Means’ jurisdiction because the fees collected from tobacco manufacturers are greater than the amount allotted to FDA to regulate tobacco products.

The extra money, about 6 percent of total industry fees, is funneled to the U.S. Treasury to avoid associating a cost with the bill from an expected decline in tax revenues as the number of smokers decreases under FDA regulation.

“The Committee on Energy and Commerce would then be financing the costs of government generally, which is clearly the jurisdiction of the Committee on Ways and Means,” Rangel wrote.

 

Energy and Commerce Republicans raised the issue during the Health Subcommittee markup, but both sides assumed they had worked out a compromise.

Rangel and Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell agreed to work something out and directed their staffs to hash out the details, an Energy and Commerce spokeswoman said.

Rangel does not have any policy disputes with the bill, an aide said.

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Rahall, on the other hand, said Thursday he has not made up his mind on the provision regulating the sale of tobacco products by Indian tribes and plans to talk with Dingell. “Madam Speaker, the amendment made by the Energy and Commerce Committee is an important matter that would have a significant impact on Native American tribes,” Rahall wrote Pelosi.

The National Congress of American Indians sent Dingell a letter Tuesday arguing that language permitting FDA to contract with state governments to conduct inspections and enforce the law is contrary to tribal sovereignty. NCAI President Joe Garcia wrote the bill threatens tribes’ ability to collect sales tax on cigarettes, one of their main sources of revenue.

The National Association of Convenience Stores dropped their opposition to the tobacco bill just prior to Energy and Commerce markup in part because the manager’s amendment required FDA to enforce retailing requirements on Indian tribes.

This article appears in the April 26, 2008 edition of NJ Daily.

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