What: All Issues : Government Checks on Corporate Power : Tobacco Industry : HR 976. (State Children’s Health Insurance Program) Motion to preserve an amendment that would place an end date on the bill’s tobacco tax increase/On the motion
 Who: All Members
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HR 976. (State Children’s Health Insurance Program) Motion to preserve an amendment that would place an end date on the bill’s tobacco tax increase/On the motion
senate Roll Call 296     Aug 02, 2007
Y = Conservative
N = Progressive
Winning Side:
Progressive

This vote was on whether or not to allow an amendment by Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that would place an end date (sometimes referred to as a “sunset date”) on a provision in the underlying bill that would raise the tax on cigarettes by 61 cents, to $1 per pack.  If adopted, Graham’s amendment would mean that cigarette tax would be void on Sept. 30, 2012, unless Congress specifically reauthorized it.

After Graham offered his amendment, Max Baucus, D-Mont., used a procedural maneuver in an attempt to kill Graham’s amendment.  In some cases, when portions of a bill violate certain congressional rules, the bill can be quickly defeated with these procedural motions unless the Senate votes to waive the rule.  One of these Senate rules stipulates that legislation may not increase deficit spending. After Baucus made his motion, Graham moved to waive the Senate rules and allow his amendment to be able to go forward anyway.  This vote was on whether or not to waive those rules.

The amendment was offered to a bill that would reauthorize SCHIP and expand the program’s funding by about $35 billion over the life of the bill.  To offset the cost of expansion, the bill would increase the federal tax on cigarettes by 61 cents, to $1 per pack.  The SCHIP program – funded primarily through taxes on tobacco products -- helps low income families with children afford health insurance, and currently covers about 6 million kids. 

Graham said that the bill would only reauthorize the SCHIP program for five years, but the increase in tobacco taxes it contains would remain in perpetuity.

“It is a very simple amendment. When the program itself is sunset to be reviewed, let’s sunset the tax part of it to be reviewed. That is all it is. If you are going to sunset the program, sunset the tax increases and make an intelligent decision at that point,” Graham said.

Max Baucus, D-Mont., said that the effect of Graham’s amendment would be to remove the financing mechanisms in the underlying bill and that as a result the amendment would leave the programs unpaid for.  “I think we should … pay for the provisions we enact,” Baucus said.

By a vote of 39-60, the Senate rejected Graham’s request to waive its rules and allow his amendment to go forward.  All but two Democrats present voted against the waiver motion (Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Jim Webb of Virginia). Of Republicans present, 37 voted for the waiver motion, and 12 voted against it.  The end result is that the waiver motion failed, and as a result Graham’s amendment that would have put an end date on the underlying bill’s tobacco tax raises was killed as violating the Senate’s rule against increasing deficit spending.

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