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Clinton, Lott call for an end to tobacco debate

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President Clinton and Senate Republican leaders agree on one thing about tobacco policy: It's time to stop talking and vote on legislation aimed at curbing teenage smoking.

But nearly a year after the industry and state attorneys general struck a historic deal to cut teen smoking, the politicians can't agree on the terms of a tobacco policy that could pass the legislative hurdle.Clinton wants a final vote on a sweeping bill sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. "Every day the Senate delays play into the hands of the tobacco industry, which wants desperately to kill this bill," Clinton told a group of presidential scholars at the White House Monday.

Impatient that the debate is delaying appropriations bills, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott has been less clear about how it should be resolved. He has made clear, however, that the bill's fate should be decided this week.

Its $516 billion price tag for the industry, Lott, R-Miss., said Monday, is "too high," and should be scaled back more to the level of the $368 billion settlement struck last June 20.

"This bill needs to be much smaller than this, probably at least $100 billion less than it is," Lott told reporters.