The chances of Senate passage might seem good for a bill already approved by the normally divided House with the support of three-fourths of its members.
But that's not always the way things work in Washington.
And it especially doesn't work that way when the bill in question would require the Food and Drug Administration to start regulating the tobacco industry.
The House passed the bill 326-102 before it left for August recess.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
Bill Corr, executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said the bill has 57 co-sponsors in the Senate and at least three other senators have voted for similar legislation in the past. That would make a veto-proof majority.
But the bill's opponents point out the math working against the majority:
The Senate was at a virtual standstill before it left, largely over offshore oil drilling.
The top Republican, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who led the charge to put off other legislation until an energy plan is passed, is from Kentucky, a state that's second only to North Carolina in tobacco production. (His staff says he's continuing to seek input on the bill from Kentucky farmers.)
The person most likely to manage the debate on the bill would be Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., the health committee chairman who has been out sick for most of the last several weeks.
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., has consistently promised to do whatever it takes to amend and stall any tobacco regulation bill he doesn't support. (That's a process that can tie up the Senate for more than a week.)
It's election year tradition not to meet in October so lawmakers on both sides of the aisle can campaign, leaving Congress with just a few weeks of work in September.
Those reasons make it questionable whether the tobacco bill will be considered in the Senate even though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who at least in theory sets the agenda, supports it.
Burr and Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., have said they oppose an already overburdened and underfunded agency regulating the tobacco industry.
The bill's supporters say there's separate funding (read higher price of cigarettes) to ensure that the FDA folks who are monitoring the food supply to keep it free from the likes of E. coli, listeria and salmonella won't be the same people assigned to new tobacco oversight duties.
About 400,000 deaths, including 12,000 in North Carolina, are attributed to tobacco use every year.
An estimated 255,000 North Carolinians rely on tobacco for their livelihood.
Driven to speak out on energy during recess
Congress hasn't been in session for more than a week, but that didn't stop a couple of N.C. Republicans from giving speeches in the House anyway.
Reps. Patrick McHenry of Cherryville and Virginia Foxx of Banner Elk were among the lawmakers protesting Congress taking a five-week vacation in the absence of any progress on energy policy while gas prices are so high.
McHenry spoke twice on the floor Wednesday, and used the opportunity to slam House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., whose new book is on sale.
“While the American people are struggling, she's out there trying to sell her book,” he said, according to a story in the Salt Lake Tribune.
Here's how that paper described the scene: “With C-SPAN cameras off, the television lights shuttered and the dais empty, some 30 House Republicans rounded up several dressed-down congressional staffers and tourists in flip-flops to provide an audience for their speeches.”
Foxx, who spoke Wednesday and Thursday, was part of the original group that stayed in the House after adjournment to protest, and she's participated in a few press briefings on the matter.
She said at a press conference that she was astonished to see how many cars are on the road at 5 a.m. in Catawba County.
“They do not have alternatives,” said Foxx, whose district includes Iredell County. “They cannot buy small cars. They can't wait for the wind. That's the Democratic plan.”
Foxx said the time for reckoning is near.
“We're going to pretty soon separate the sheep and the goats,” she said. “We're going to find out, who are the people that are pro-American energy and who are the people that are anti-American energy.”
Another GOP convention no-show: McHenry
Last week we reported that several area lawmakers were sitting out the Republican National Convention.
Add McHenry to the list of those who won't be in Minneapolis-St. Paul the first week of September as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., officially becomes the party's presidential nominee.
The convention “is not a priority,” McHenry spokesman Brock McCleary said.
Dole gets apology for her omission on bill
There's a bit of a hierarchy to sponsoring legislation.
The actual sponsors are often the people who author the bill. The “original co-sponsors” are those whose support is lined up before the measure is introduced, and additional co-sponsors sign on afterward.
It's probably a distinction without much of a difference to everyday citizens. But when Dole's name wasn't listed on an Americans with Disabilities Act bill introduced July 29, the two senators who are “sponsors” felt the need to publicly apologize for the staff oversight.
“Senator Dole is a leader on disability issues and should be commended for her and her husband's commitment to individuals with disabilities,” Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said a day after introducing the bill on the Senate floor.
“I want everyone in that community to know that Senator Dole intended to be an original co-sponsor of this measure,” added Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.
Getting there first apparently matters.