Robert Novak

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, whose rural lowland district in South Carolina is full of tobacco farmers and who has been a beneficiary of contributions from the tobacco industry, indicated Tuesday he no longer is an obstacle to raising taxes on cigarettes.

In an April 17 federal tax day interview with Congress Daily, Clyburn said Congress should consider increasing the tobacco tax because of "paygo" requirements to compensate for higher spending. Since tobacco farmers have received a $10.1 billion federal buyout, Clyburn said, "all we're talking about is people who choose to smoke cigarettes."

In his virtually unopposed re-election to an eighth term in Congress, tobacco interests gave Clyburn $14,000. That was more than all but 34 of 435 House members received from the industry.


National Democratic Party strategists believe that Sen. Tim Johnson, out of sight since suffering a brain hemorrhage last Dec. 13, will be able to run for re-election in South Dakota next year. But if he cannot, they fear Democrats will lose the seat in the heavily Republican state.

These strategists doubt Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, the probable Democratic nominee if Johnson does not run, can win a Senate race. The strongest Republican candidate would be Gov. Mike Rounds. Other possibilities are Lt. Gov. Steve Kirby and State Senate Majority Leader Dave Knudson.

South Dakota Republican insiders say they doubt Johnson will be able to be a candidate. His office has said he may return to the Senate as early as this summer, with the help of a wheelchair.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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