What: All Issues : Justice for All: Civil and Criminal : A vote on passage of a Republican amendment to S. 2400, the fiscal year 2005 Defense Authorization Act, that would put the Senate on record as supporting federal taxing of tobacco lawyers' fees that exceed $20,000 per hour in order to increase funding for equipment for the U.S. Armed Forces. (2004 senate Roll Call 100)
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A vote on passage of a Republican amendment to S. 2400, the fiscal year 2005 Defense Authorization Act, that would put the Senate on record as supporting federal taxing of tobacco lawyers' fees that exceed $20,000 per hour in order to increase funding for equipment for the U.S. Armed Forces.
senate Roll Call 100     May 19, 2004
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Win

Progressives managed to turn back this conservative-backed amendment offered by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) to S. 2400, the fiscal year 2005 Defense Authorization Act. Kyl's amendment would put the Senate on record as supporting federal taxing of tobacco lawyers' fees that exceed $20,000 per hour in order to increase funding for equipment for the U.S. Armed Forces. The Senate defeated, 37-62, the Kyl amendment, which expressed the sense of the Senate that Congress should impose taxes of up to 200 percent on the "excess fees" earned by plaintiffs' lawyers who earned large sums of money in settlements with tobacco companies in the late 1990s. Kyl had wanted to transfer about $9 billion recouped in this way to the Pentagon, to pay for armoring vehicles, procuring drones, buying body armor and more. The Kyl amendment, in part, grew out of Republican frustration with Democratic attempts during the course of debate on S. 2400, to raise money for the war effort by taxing corporations and wealthy Americans. Kyl's amendment directed new taxation at a key Democratic constituency: trial lawyers. "The bottom line is that there is a point at which the fees are obscene and unreasonable and unethical," said Kyl. "So the tobacco companies are still going to pay every dime they committed to pay in lawyer fees. But the money, instead of going to the trial lawyers, after they have collected $20,000 an hour, will go to the U.S. Treasury to pay for the military equipment that is the subject of the bill before us right now." Progressives called the amendment "discriminatory" on the grounds that trial lawyers are being singled out to have their fees federally taxed, and said it would serve as a deterrent for lawyers who save the lives and health of people by suing tobacco companies over the ill-health effects associated with their products.

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