Senate leaders withdrew tobacco-control legislation from floor debate late last week after members bogged down in partisan bickering over tax increases and other issues.
Debate is scheduled to resume when the Senate returns on June 1 from its Memorial Day recess.
The delay came after House Demo-cratic leaders called on Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) to schedule House debate on tobacco legislation so that the House can complete its work by July 4. The House has yet to seriously consider a bill similar to the tobacco legislation in the Senate.
As it stands, the Senate legislation to enforce a national settlement between the states and tobacco companies will increase federal cigarette taxes by $1.10 a pack, the revenues from which will be placed in a trust fund to finance public health and research programs.
Of the projected $102.5 billion in tax revenues paid to the trust fund over five years, 40% would go to the states to settle their lawsuits. The states would use that money for healthcare and prevention programs. Meanwhile, 22% would go to federal public health programs and another 22% to health research programs.
Any revenue in excess of the estimates included in the bill would be diverted to the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund. After 10 years, 12% of the tax payments would go to the Medicare trust fund.
In its use of tobacco-tax revenues for Medicare, the legislation strikes a middle ground between the stance taken by the Senate Budget Committee and that of the Senate Finance Committee. The legislation is sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
In the fiscal 1999 budget resolution that passed both the Budget Committee and the full Senate, all the new tobacco tax revenues were reserved for the Medicare trust fund.
But the Finance Committee, when it passed its version of the tobacco legislation, rejected the idea of using the tax revenues for Medicare, because members feared that providers would then lobby for increased payments and effectively gut the balanced-budget law that was enacted last year.
The federal public health dollars would be allocated largely to disease prevention and smoking cessation. The Indian Health Service would get a small share, amounting to no more than 1.5% of the total tobacco tax receipts.
States would be free to use half their dollars for whatever purposes they choose, but half would be restricted to such uses as the state children's health insurance programs authorized under balanced-budget law, programs financed by the federal maternal and child health block grants, substance abuse treatment and prevention programs, child care and education.
As it debated the measure last week, the Senate turned back an effort to raise the tobacco tax by $1.50 a pack.