Industry must really want the Food Safety Modernization Act (S 510). It was dead, dead, dead – the clock had run out, and considering the gridlock in Washington, the fact that Jim DeMint (R-SC) had promised he would block most everything the Democrats brought up, and Tom Colburn (R-OK) had promised he would personally fillibuster this bill, there was no way that was going to change.
And yet, it somehow snuck onto the Senate schedule late Sunday (something Harry Reid couldn’t even do for the Defense Appropriation Bill that funds our military), and was approved by unanimous consent.
Which leads us to wonder… who wanted this so badly that they were able to strong-arm the normally un-herdable Senate? They sure didn’t do it at the behest of food crusader Michael Pollan. And while a coalition of groups – including The American Public Health Association, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Consumer Federation of America, and the Consumers Union - sent Reid a letter today urging him to act on the bill, it’s doubtful in the extreme that those august (but ultimately powerless) agencies were able to light a fire under the Majority Leader, much less the opposition.
Here’s the timeline:
- House passes the bill in July of 2009.
- Loooooooong pause.
- The Senate finally takes up the bill in November 2010, eventually passing it by a 73-25 bi-partisan vote. The Senate version includes changes: the Tester Amendment, exempting small farms and producers from the regulations; and some revenue-enhancing fees.
- But under the Constitution, revenue bills must originate with the House. The Senate-passed bill is unconstitutional. Oops. Suddenly, with the end of session looming, it’s back to square one.
- To slip it back in under the wire, the House adds the full text of the Food Safety Act to the Continuing Resolution, the omnibus spending bill the government needs to keep running after Friday. For those of you keeping score, that means the bill has now passed the House TWICE. Partisan bickering has gridlocked every spending bill (as well as just about everything else), so the CR was a last-minute fix that HAD to happen or the government would shut down.
- Did we say it HAD to happen? Hahahahahah.
- Republicans block the Continuing Resolution, too. Why shouldn’t they? They’ll be in charge in a few weeks and can make deep cuts to things they don’t like.
- Instead, Republicans propose a short-term, bare-bones Continuing Resolution to keep the government open until they take over. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) makes sure the Food Safety Act is NOT included. “It’s not going anywhere. It’s dead,” Coburn told ABC News.
- Democrats cave.
- Food Safety Modernization Act dies on the floor of the Senate, despite having passed both houses at one point by wide margins.
- Today – Zoom! Republicans drop objections, Tom Coburn says he’ll withdraw his filibuster threat, it gets placed on the agenda, voted on, and passed by unanimous consent.
- Everyone, including lobbyists who had been pushing the bill, says “How the hell did that happen?”
- Food Safety Modernization Act, The Bill That Wouldn’t Die, Is Dead
- Is the Food Safety Act a Blessing or a Corporatist Curse?
- The Food Safety Act is Now Law. But How Will It Be Enforced?