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Bills target cigarettes, clunkers

WASHINGTON — The House passed a bill last week that would provide federal vouchers of up to $4,500 to motorists who trade in their cars for new ones that get better mileage.

Lawmakers passed the “cash for clunkers” bill by a 298-119 vote.

Supporters said it would stimulate the auto industry while helping the environment and allowing car owners to save on gasoline.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., said 16 other nations have established similar programs that have increased auto sales as much as 40 percent.

Rep, Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said the Congressional Budget Office estimated the program will help sell 600,000 cars, “many of them made right here in America.”

“For consumers it means a chance to get rid of the old gas guzzling clunker,” Waxman said.

Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., criticized the bill, calling it a gimmick to subsidize the auto industry.

“We can’t simply manufacture demand any more than we can defy any of the other laws of economics,” Flake said.

Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., said the bill should have been expanded to allow consumers to trade in their clunkers for used cars and not just new ones.

“Even after a generous credit, for many American families, a new car is financially out of reach,” Cantor said.

Reps. Shelley Berkley and Dina Titus, both D-Nev., voted for the bill. Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., voted against it.

TOBACCO BILL FINISHED

The House and Senate completed work on a bill to further crack down on smoking by expanding the government’s authority to regulate cigarettes and other tobacco products.

President Barack Obama is expected to enact the landmark bill, which will allow the Food and Drug Administration to place controls on how most tobacco products are made and marketed.

The agency could set rules on the content of nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes, and restrict how the products are advertised. It would impose fees on the tobacco industry to pay for the added regulation.

Some critics questioned the ability of the FDA to handle tobacco regulation, while others said the effort amounted to more government intrusion in private industry.

Others said the fees would be inadequate to cover the cost of overseeing the industry, meaning taxpayers would end up paying.

About 45 million U.S. adults still smoke, despite years of warnings that tobacco causes lung cancer.

The bill outlaws flavored cigarettes that are popular among teenagers and restricts promotions aimed at recruiting new smokers.

The House passed the bill by a 307-97 vote. Berkley and Titus voted for it. Heller voted against it.

The vote in the Senate was 79-17. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., voted for the bill. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., voted against it.

PAKISTAN AID OK’D

The House voted 234-185 to triple economic and military aid to Pakistan in a bid to prop up the nation battling extremists and helping the United States in the Afghanistan war.

The bill would authorize $1.5 billion annually in nonmilitary aid over the next five years, and an initial $300 million for Pakistan’s counterinsurgency efforts.

The House vote fell largely along party lines.

Republicans complained the bill included too many conditions that could hamper Pakistan’s ability to access the funding. Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., said Democrats were trying to “micromanage U.S. security assistance to Pakistan.”

Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., defended the accountability provisions. Among them, the United States would keep detailed records of how Pakistan spends the money and seek proof that the allied nation is cracking down on extremists and is working to stem the spread of nuclear weapons.

Berkley and Titus voted for the Pakistan aid bill. Heller voted against it.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault @stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760.

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