Tobacco bill moves ahead in Senate

WASHINGTON - A key Senate vote yesterday put Congress in sight of fulfilling a decade-old quest to put the content and marketing of tobacco products under federal government control.

The legislation would for the first time give the Food and Drug Administration legal authority to regulate cigarettes and other tobacco products. The 61-30 Senate vote to move forward on the bill sets up possible passage this week. Sixty votes were needed to keep the bill on track.

The House has passed a similar bill.

The Senate action was critical because, under Senate rules, it ended the possibility of senators offering amendments, some highly controversial, that are not relevant to the FDA regulation issue.

Congress has been trying for more than a decade to give the FDA powers over tobacco products. - AP

Mayor: Union is trying 'extortion'

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Providence Mayor David Cicilline said yesterday that he would participate in a national mayors conference in his city this week, even as Vice President Biden and other Obama administration officials stay away to avoid a union protest.

The White House said Friday that it would not take part in the conference, to avoid taking sides in a municipal contract dispute. The conference begins Friday and was scheduled partly as a summit on stimulus aid.

The mayor accused the union of "extortion tactics." "You don't host something and then absent yourself," he said. Cicilline has been locked in a contract dispute with the firefighters union, primarily over health-care contributions and staffing requirements, since taking office in January 2003. - AP

Nagin, in China, is quarantined

NEW ORLEANS - Mayor Ray Nagin; his wife, Seletha; and a member of his security detail remained in quarantine in China yesterday, a predicament that his spokeswoman called a precaution after another traveler on their flight from Newark, N.J., exhibited suspected swine flu symptoms.

"He's doing well," Nagin spokeswoman Ceeon Quiett said yesterday. She did not know when the three - under quarantine since Sunday - might be released or whether they would be tested for the flu.

Quiett said the quarantine was for passengers who sat near the traveler with flulike symptoms. She did not identify the airline.

The U.S. Consulate in Shanghai and local officials did not respond to questions yesterday. Nagin is on what his office called an economic development trip. - AP

Elsewhere:

Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty said the federal government had reimbursed the city for all costs related to President Obama's inauguration, totaling nearly $43 million.

Former New Hampshire Sen. Bob Smith, a Republican, said yesterday that he was running for the Senate from Florida. Smith has lived in Sarasota for seven years after representing New Hampshire in the Senate for two terms.