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The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, a vigorous opponent of the recently passed D.C. smoking ban, has registered to lobby the U.S. Congress on “smoking in the workplace,” according to Senate lobby disclosure records. The news was met with surprise by the offices of several D.C. Council members last week, who, with the exception of Carol Schwartz (R-At Large), voted in January in favor of the legislation that prohibits smoking in the District’s restaurants and bars. The association’s legal counsel, Andrew Kline, says that his group has been registered as federal lobbyists for years, adding that while there are no formal plans to lobby against the ban, “We wanted to make sure we were covered legally” and “keep our options open.” Uncertain if the association is going to pressure congressional lawmakers to basically overturn the smoking ban, several council members were cautionary in their remarks. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) says that if that indeed becomes the case, he would view it “as a highly unfriendly and unwise thing to do.” Added council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large): “I’m not going to criticize them for something they’ve done or will do, but if they go to Congress it would receive an unfavorable reaction from local leaders and generate an enormous backlash with the public.” The council passed the smoking ban Jan. 4 and D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, who opposed the measure, allowed the legislation to move forward for congressional review without his signature. In a Jan. 30 statement, Williams called the measure “restrictive and inflexible,” adding that the “ban would result in substantial economic harm to bars and restaurants.” The next day, the restaurant association registered to lobby. Congress has 30 legislative days to review the legislation. If members fail to act on it, the measure would become law in early April. A staffer on Rep. Thomas Davis’ (R-Va.) Committee on Government Reform — where D.C. bills are sent for congressional review — notes, “We haven’t heard a puff [from anyone opposed to the smoking ban].” Though he added that such silence was “unusual.”
Joe Crea can be contacted at [email protected].

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