Monday, February 13, 2006

Contempt Of Congress

The walk with frosty face this morning was in the freshest of air, the snow falling gently, clean and white. A far cry from the lungs of many of our Congressmen. A headline reading "Smoke-free D.C. may not include House" (Andrea Stone-USA Today) caught my eye. Boy, is this ever a "do as I say, not as I do" moment!

Maybe it is the smoky haze in our nation's capital that fuzzies the intellect of the men and women we elect. Here, as in many cities and states today, smoking in most indoor work places will be illegal by a vote of the District of Columbia City Council and - get this - as with all District laws it must go to Congress for approval. It is expected to pass - "not a puff of opposition" the article continues.

Even if approved Congress doesn't have to abide since it sets its own rules. "I'm all for home rule," said Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., as he gripped a well chewed cigar. "But I think inside the Capitol it is reasonable to have rules that are...set by the Congress." What do you restaurant and bar owners think of that?

"It's a long time tradition," Rep. Mike Sodrel, R-Ind., said as he puffed on a cigarette in the Speaker's Lobby.

Continuing on from the USA Today report not in the Spokesman, Doug Markey, an ENVIRONMENTAL contractor who was smoking nearby said members of Congress should get a pass. "You've got guys up here doing this kind of work who needs a smoke. By God, you ought to give them a place to smoke."

Fine. Outside like everyone else.

I had to dig a bit to find any statistics on smoking legislation but I give you this from 10 years ago:

"And the 105th US Congress, being made up mainly of politicians, has been more than anxious to answer the call of public opinion with a raft of proposed legislation designed to, in one way or another to...

Reduce or otherwise control smoking and the use of tobacco products in general
Impose new or tougher controls on the production and sale of tobacco products
Fund new or continuing research into health concerns related to tobacco use
During the 1997-98 Congressional session, 88 such bills and resolutions were introduced. Of those, only 28 ever saw floor debate and only 1 (one) bill was signed into law. Senate Bill 1722 - "Women's Health Research and Prevention Amendments of 1998" was passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton on October 31, 1998. This bill extends funding through the year 2003 for research conducted by the National Institutes of Health in several areas of women's' health concerns, only one of which is smoking.

But, look at the titles of some of the 87 bills that did not become law during the 105th Congress:

Tobacco-Free Youth Act (Introduced in the House)[H.R.2519.IH]
Cigars Are Not A Safe Smoking Alternative Act (Introduced in the Senate)[S.2625.IS]
Pregnant Mothers and Infants Health Protection Act of 1997 (Introduced in the Senate)[S.938.IS]
Airliner Cabin Air Quality Act of 1997 (Introduced in the House)[H.R.552.IH]
Investing in Our Children's Health Act of 1998 (Introduced in the House)[H.R.3908.IH]
Teen Tobacco Use Prevention Act of 1998 (Introduced in the House)[H.R.3889.IH]
Youth Protection From Tobacco Addiction Act of 1997 (Introduced in the House)[H.R.762.IH]
National Tobacco Policy and Youth Smoking Reduction Act (as)[S.1415.AS]
Bipartisan NO Tobacco for Kids Act of 1998 (Introduced in the House)[H.R.3868.IH]"

It's bad enough we can't have the pensions or the health care they receive, nor vote ourselves raises in the middle of the night. That they choose to endanger their health is their business but they are overstepping when it comes to endangering the health of the interns, pages, any employee who does not smoke. Consider too the damage that smoke and it's by-products do to the works of art housed therein - our national treasures. Not theirs. I really resent their "up yours" attitude!

There are those who advocate abiding by the ban - Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. being in the forefront. Some are wishy washy at best as is Rep. Luis Guitierrez, D-Ill. who said "We abide by their traffic laws and their parking laws, or at least most of us do. We should give some consideration to it. I wouldn't mind. I'll live longer."

John Donne once said "No man is an island...". Nor should be those who serve within our institutions.

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