The Senate debated S. 510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, last week. I was not able to watch the debate and was disappointed to find not one word about it in Friday's New York Times. I guess it doesn't count as news when Senators stall legislation that would give the FDA the authority it needs to ensure safe food.
Fortunately, Helena Bottemiller of FoodSafetyNews is on the job. She reports:
• The Senate is unlikely to do anything with the bill until after Thanksgiving recess, November 29 at the earliest.
• Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) is trying to block the bill by forcing a vote on an amendment to ban all earmark spending through 2013.
• Although the bill ostensibly has wide bipartisan support in the Senate and the House, big agricultural groups are unhappy about the recent Tester amendment mandating exemptions for small farms. Twenty produce groups signed a letter (PDF) to Senate leadership arguing against the exemptions.
• All bets are off on what will happen next.
The House passed its version of the bill in July 2009. The increasingly dysfunctional Senate has been sitting on it ever since.
Why? The reason seems ludicrous but it's what everyone is telling me: The Republicans do not want the Democratic administration to get credit for passing the food safety bill.
Senators: Grow up! Lives are at stake here.
Citizens: Act up! Tell your senators to get this bill passed.
Additions: Here's Bill Marler's update on the competing amendments. Apparently Coburn thinks we don't need a food safety bill because Marler's lawsuits will keep industry in line. And Phil Brasher explains all the steps that will need to be taken for this bill to get passed by the Senate and become law.
This post also appears on foodpolitics.com.