Spat between Reid and McCain delays tobacco bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) expressed his frustration with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) Thursday evening for holding up a wide-ranging tobacco regulation bill.

McCain has delayed action by insisting on a vote on an amendment to ease the re-importation of prescription drugs from foreign countries such as Canada.

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Reid claims the amendment is not germane and has resisted giving in to McCain, creating a logjam on the Senate floor.

“One senator has held this up and that's the way things can happen around here,” said Reid. “It's unfortunate, but it does happen.

“We've worked for a couple of days to arrive at the point we are and the sad part about it is that the senator that has held all of this up has an amendment that isn't remotely germane to this bill.”

McCain raced to the floor to rebut Reid.

“I am very appreciative of the difficulties that he [faces] on a bill of this nature and the challenges … [and] the difficulties that he faces in managing legislation,” said McCain.

“This issue has been around for a long time. Could I say to my friend from Nevada, it's been around for a long time. We should address it. It is important to the American people. It really does have a lot to do with the [Food and Drug Administration] — with the pharmaceuticals in this country and availability.”

The bill pending on the floor would give the FDA authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products.

A spokeswoman for McCain disputed Reid’s characterization that her boss is holding up the tobacco bill.

“I’m disputing the characterization that Senator McCain is holding up this bill – Senator McCain is calling for a vote on his amendment and would be willing to agree on a time agreement and have that vote anytime including tonight or into tomorrow,” said the McCain aide.

Reid and McCain will try to hammer out an agreement over the next few days.

The amendment is sponsored by Sen. Byron Dorgan (N.D.), the Democrat’s point man on drug re-importation.

Supporters of drug re-importation such McCain, Dorgan and Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) have tried many times over the past several years to attach similar amendment to a variety of different bills.