Clinton supports FDA bill

Congress asked to restore agency's tobacco authority


WASHINGTON -- President Clinton challenged Congress yesterday to restore the Food and Drug Administration's ability to regulate tobacco, calling it a "life and death issue for children."

But Rep. J. C. Watts of Oklahoma, the third-ranking House Republican, said the drug agency should concentrate instead on finding cures for diseases, and that the president should "use the bully pulpit" to tell children not to smoke.

Clinton's comments came in his weekly radio address, broadcast as he was ending his travels to India and Pakistan. He described Tuesday's Supreme Court decision, which said the FDA needed specific authority from Congress before dealing with tobacco, as a "setback for the health of our children."

"Now the ball is in Congress' court," he said. "They should show they also understand the danger to our young people and give the FDA's tobacco regulations the force of law. This is not a partisan issue. It's a health issue for our nation."

Rep. Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat, who introduced a bill Tuesday that would restore FDA authority and give its tobacco rules the force of law, said he doubted that Republican leaders would let the legislation come to a vote. "They love the tobacco companies," Waxman said.

Watts, in a news release, maintained the Republican argument, which was offered Tuesday by various party leaders, that the agency could not handle the additional workload of tobacco regulation.

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