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Editorial: First They Came for Tobacco

In typical fashion, the political elite on Capitol Hill seem less interested in weighing the pros and cons of important issues than wielding the scepter of power at impotent opponents.

At stake is a massive regulatory bill, HR 1256, which would give the FDA expansive regulatory control over tobacco. In many ways, it is a test case by the elite to see how much power they can grab—no matter how inordinate—by first picking off the easiest targets. Senator Tom Coburn and a few others, however, have called Harry Reid and his fellow Democrats' bluff.

In his own amendment TO hr 1256, Senator Coburn says that if the FDA is to regulate tobacco, they ought to regulate medical marijuana as well—the message of the amendment being that if they truly cared about regulating a dangerous substance, why stop at tobacco? Why the hypocrisy?

Unfortunately, however, Senator Coburn's amendment may never be given a vote.

The chaos ensued when Senator John McCain requested a vote on a separate, unrelated amendment on the reimportation of prescription drugs as reported by the National Journal. In response, an irate Majority Leader Harry Reid used his self-arrogated dictatorial authority to file for immediate cloture on the tobacco regulation bill. And the catch? Not a single amendment to the bill would be allowed to come to a vote.

Not Senator McCain's amendment. Not Coburn's amendment. Nor the remaining 49 amendments slated for debate by other equally serious members of what has now earned the designation as “The World's Greatest Non-Deliberative Body.”

Senator Reid has decided to shut the door of dialogue and force a vote on one of the most draconian regulatory measures the nation has yet seen. Draconian not only in what it provides, but in what it portends. And all because tobacco is an easy whipping boy for posturing politicians. Moreover, the bill would reverse a 2000 Supreme Court decision which ruled that the FDA lacked the constitutional authority to regulate tobacco.

As ALG News Bureau pointed out last week, the Democrats are up to their necks in hypocrisy, and the latest shenanigans of the FDA tobacco regulation bill prove it. They want the FDA tobacco bill voted on, approved, and out of the picture before both their duplicity—and their dangerous disregard of Senate tradition—is completely revealed.

Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson has called out Congressional Democrats and Big Government Bureaucrats for being two-faced on the matter and covering over the real issue at stake: control. As Wilson said:

“The Coburn amendment has effectively revealed the Democrats at their most hypocritical. Congress and Big Government Washington bureaucrats are moving to criminalize tobacco while simultaneously legalizing marijuana…The real aim of placing tobacco under FDA control is ultimately prohibition. It's time we call this what it is—a move towards prohibition.”

Simply put, Democrats do not care about the actual health implications of tobacco. The real prize at the end of this race is a greater slough of tax dollars and far more government control.

The conscientious members of the Senate must end this duplicity and demand an up and down vote on the Coburn amendment—not to mention the 50 other pending amendments. If Harry Reid and his grasping cohorts block the right to vote on Coburn's (or any other) amendment, they are doing far worse than merely voting against it. They are taking away the public's most basic democratic right to honest decisions, openly debated.

It is not by accident, of course, that Reid, Dodd, et. al. have chosen tobacco for their initial foray into unbridled power. It is, for them, the political equivalent of the golfer's “gimme.” Tobacco, though still legal, is vastly unpopular, they reason, so pick it off early. Then, move on to the tougher targets where individual liberty conflicts with the collective writ.

And one is reminded of the haunting words of the parish priest, Martin Niemoller, who, opposing the Nazi atrocities decades ago wrote:

"In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist; And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist; And then they came for the Jews, And I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew; And then... they came for me... And by that time there was no one left to speak up."

Today in America, they are coming first for tobacco.


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