Bad Booze Bill on the Rocks?


Yesterday I wrote about the Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act—a.k.a. the preposterously acronymed CARE Act—which aimed to prop up state-based alcohol wholesalers at the expense of distillers, brewers, vintners, and drinkers. H.R. 5034 contained some dubious constitutional shenanigans, including a gambit to privilege alcohol-regulating powers conferred by the Prohibition-repealing 21st Amendment over the Constitution's trade-enabling Commerce Clause. At the time, a Judiciary committee hearing on the bill was tentatively scheduled for next Wednesday.

Today, insidery booze biz pub Kane's Beverage News Daily (which hides its light under a subscription wall bushel) reports that not only has the hearing been cancelled (perhaps due to concerns about the bill's constitutionality), it somehow magically never existed in the first place:

When we called a proponent to ask about "constitutional problems" with the bill, we got an interesting dance.  There had been talk about scheduling a full committee hearing on the bill, we were told, but since it hadn't actually been "noticed," our source thought it wasn't quite right to say it had been cancelled.

And then the proponent said they weren't aware of any constitutional problems.  In fact, the proponent said, Texas Attorney General James C. Ho [Ed update: Ho is actually solicitor general] told a House Judiciary subscommittee on March 18 that the legislation would reduce litigation and was within the power of Congress to pass.

Meanwhile, in a related development, several lobbyists have told us the Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau has drafted a letter to be signed by John Manfreda, administrator, strongly opposing the measure on constitutional grounds. 

Like all policy statements by federal agencies, the letter had to be reviewed by a number of agencies, including Treasury, since TTB is a Treasury agency, as well as the White House Office of Management & Budget, and the Justice Department.  We're told one of those agencies is holding the letter.

Reason gets results?

In other news, there is a Congressional Wine Caucus.