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Senate Clears Tobacco Regulation Bill

The Senate voted 79-17 in favor of a tobacco regulation bill Thursday, one week after the legislation was originally slated for completion.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), would grant the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco products.

“More than 40 years ago, Ted Kennedy began this battle. But he’s missing right now with his own battle of cancer,— said Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who managed the bill in Kennedy’s absence.

The bill was slated for approval last week, but several Republicans, led by Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), demanded more time to consider a handful of amendments.

A similar measure passed in the House last month.

Dodd is taking a lead role in Senate negotiations on health care reform, pinch-hitting for Kennedy, chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Dodd noted at a press conference Thursday afternoon that the tobacco bill’s passage appropriately kicks off a summer Senate schedule that will be devoted to heath care.

The HELP Committee introduced its health care reform bill earlier this week. Meanwhile the Finance Committee, which has taken the lead on the issue, is expected to mark up its bill the week of June 15.

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