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Tobacco Bill to Drag Into Next Week

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could not reach an agreement with Republicans regarding consideration of a tobacco regulation bill Thursday evening, effectively forcing the chamber to allow more time for the legislation next week after it already consumed an entire week’s worth of debate. Several Republicans wanted their amendments to the bill to be considered on the floor, with the charge led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who tried to get a time agreement on his amendment to legalize drug reimportation. “One Senator has held this up. That’s the way things can happen around here,— Reid lamented on the floor. “We’ve worked for a couple of days to arrive at the point we are, and the sad part about it is that the Senator that has held all this up has an amendment that isn’t remotely germane to this bill.— Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who had managed the bill on the floor over the past week, also expressed his frustration and noted that if McCain’s amendment was added to the legislation, final passage would be threatened. “This bill on smoking and children is about as fragile a proposal that I’ve seen here in a long time,— Dodd said. “There are strong voices that would like to kill this legislation and have effectively.—“There will be any number of very attractive ideas proposed to this legislation, many of which I’ve either supported or would like to support,— Dodd added. “But with the full knowledge in doing so, I run the risk of breaking up that necessary 60 votes.— The legislation, which would grant the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco products, has wide support among Democrats. The House passed a similar measure last month. The Senate version, first introduced by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), was approved by his Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee by a 15-8 vote on May 20.After an exchange with McCain on the chamber floor, Reid announced that the Senate would vote Monday on a procedural motion to overcome the Republican-led opposition and move forward on the bill. The move will consume more precious floor time in a chamber that faces a busy summer. Reid earlier Thursday outlined a list of priorities that includes consideration of a host of appropriations bills and final passage of the $100 billion war supplemental conference report. Additionally, the Senate is slated to begin debate over a major health care reform bill by August and at some point must also consider the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to fill a pending Supreme Court vacancy. The chamber also has a backlog of 10 executive nominations yet to be considered. Reid was unable to reach an agreement with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Thursday, after the exchange over the tobacco bill, to approve the nomination of Robert Groves to be census director.

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