"Big Tobacco has no friends on the Hill in this one," says TIME Washington correspondent Bruce Van Voorst. "The Senate has been thumbing its nose at the industry all week." McCain was unworried Thursday -- his concern right now is to get the bill through Congress -- but as Van Voorst says, "Tobacco is not without cards in this game." RJR is prepared to fight any restrictions on industry advertising in the courts as a First Amendment violation -- and experts say they more than have a case.
The rest of the industry is still waiting to see Congress's final product -- but they're sure to hate it. McCain's tough line may all be part of the negotiating game, but cigarette companies are letting him know that as long as tobacco is a legal business, it's going to take both sides to keep this dance out of court.