The Tobacco Bill went up in smoke in June, and as I write there's no telling whether it will resolidify, like Aladdin's genie, if Congress rubs the lamp. But before we consign the fight to the ancient history file, it's worth noting a few details.
With the McCain bill died an attempt to kill the tobacco price-support program that has been so important to farmers in states like Kentucky and North Carolina. It was no surprise that the internationally-minded Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana had sponsored language that would have phased out the price-support program in three years, with a buyout. Mr. Lugar hates cigarettes, hates any kind of farm price-support program, and believes that we should give away our tax money only to people who really need it (i.e., the Pakistanis).
It was astonishing, however, that at the 11th hour Lugar was joined as co-sponsor by his fellow Republican, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell. McConnell abandoned his previous support for fellow Kentuckian Wendell Ford's LEAF Act, which would have kept the program but offered a 10-year buyout to those farmers wanting it. At a vital point in the debate, McConnell split the Kentucky delegation on this issue for the first time in memory. (Ford learned of McConnell's change of heart only at a joint Lugar/McConnell press conference.)
The tobacco program should be palatable for everyone but the most entrenched big-business apologists...