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Measure to raise legal age for tobacco sales to 21 is among provisions attached to spending bills

Posted at 7:01 AM, Dec 17, 2019

Lawmakers have agreed to ban the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21 and repeal three health care taxes designed to help pay for the Affordable Care Act as part of the sweeping year-end spending agreement, according to multiple people involved in the talks.

The restriction on tobacco sales has long been a push by a somewhat odd compilation of members, ranging from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a Kentucky Republican, and Republican Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Todd Young of Indiana, and some of the chamber's top Democrats, including Sens. Richard Durbin of Illinois, Tim Kaine of Virginia and Brian Schatz of Hawaii.

Those lawmakers have been looking for a means to get the prohibition across the finish line, and now they've found one by attaching it to a must-pass series of bills to avoid a government shutdown.

The final version of the bill is expected to be released later on Monday, and the increased age restriction for tobacco purchases is one of several provisions outside the spending measures themselves that will be attached to the broader $1.4 trillion spending agreement and likely become federal law.

The medical device tax, health insurance tax and "Cadillac" tax on employer plans -- all of which have faced bipartisan opposition on Capitol Hill and have been targeted by health care industry lobbyists for years -- would also be repealed in the agreement, the people said. Their opponents on Capitol Hill have been looking for a popular bill that they can be attached to, and this spending package is the last train leaving the station in 2019.

Negotiators have also agreed to extend the Export-Import Bank for an additional seven years and provide financing to shore up miner pensions that are at risk of running out of money, the people said.

The spending bill also includes $25 million for gun research at the Centers for Disease Control and PRevention and the National Institutes of Health, which has long been a Democratic push. It maintains the long-standing prohibition on any funds being used to advocate or promote gun control.

Talks are still ongoing over the bill, but negotiators are hoping to wrap up the entire package shortly in order to post the bills online. The House is still expected to move the spending agreement in two separate packages on Tuesday.