WASHINGTONAmid political bickering on Capitol Hill over the proposed tobacco settlement and the gloomy prediction of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss) that legislation needed to implement the pact stands only a 30% chance of passage, a powerful Senate chairman gently warned public health groups that discord within their own ranks isnt helping the situation.
In a letter to 34 organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Cancer Society, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) urged the groups to develop a consensus, where possible, concerning the key components of comprehensive tobacco legislation.
Sen. McCain chairs the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which will hold a series of hearings on the settlement proposal and play a major role in writing any tobacco law.
The importance of a public health coalition reaching a common position on the details of the settlement cannot be overstated, he said. Legislative progress would be seriously impeded if the public health community is not fully engaged and substantially in accord.
Sen. McCain said that Congress must address extremely complex issues related to the tobacco settlement and national tobacco policy and that consensus will be critical to drafting legislation that will win the support of the public, Congress, and the Clinton Administration.
Clearly, the public health community must play a vital role in the process if we are to craft an appropriate legislative approach, he said.