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Commentary: Don’t Forget H.R. 1639

30 Aug 2012

If I might borrow a phrase from June Cleaver, I’m worried about the bill. H.R. 1639, that is.

I’m concerned because I think many cigar smokers believe there’s nothing left to do on this legislation to bar the Food & Drug Administration from regulating premium cigars. I’ve heard more than once that it’s achieved a majority in Congress, the implication being that we’ve won the fight.

Sorry, that’s not true. The bill hasn’t achieved a majority of support in either the House or the Senate, according to Thomas.gov, the Library of Congress site that tracks bills.

In the House, there are 217 voting members who’ve signed on, including the original sponsor, Florida’s Bill Posey. I know you keep seeing and hearing that it’s achieved the threshold of half of the 435 members but, as I’ve pointed out before, the key is voting members. The cosponsor list includes among supporters the representative from Guam, who has no vote, and former Oregon Rep. David Wu, who resigned in 2011. No one’s signed on since Aug. 2.

In the Senate, where the legislation is known as S. 1461, there are but 12 cosponsors to the bill, introduced by Bill Nelson of Florida. That’s a long, long way from 51.

Adding to the pressure is the fact that Congress has only a few weeks of work left in this session. This doesn’t bode well for the chances of such specific legislation as the cigar bill winning approval, even with adequate support. Couple that with the fact that many of the names you see on the lists of supporters in both chambers won’t be back in 2013, and the fight doesn’t appear so certain.

And that last point leads to another consideration. I know some feel that the legislation doesn’t have to pass, that simply the recognition of ample Congressional support will be adequate to force the FDA to back down. I’m not one of them. There might be a tactical retreat, but they’re smart enough to bide their time and strike later.

So, once again, I’m urging all of you to see whether your senator or representative has signed on. And, if not, let them know you want their support. This is a golden opportunity and we can’t afford to settle for silver.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

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