It's been slow going since the midterms, with only one week of work and partisan leadership elections taking up some time, but Congress marked its second significant achievement of the lame-duck session today as the Senate passed its food safety bill.
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act passed on a 73-25 vote; the House must now pass it before it goes to President Obama's desk.
The most controversial element of this bill--restrictions on bisphenol-A (a common chemical in plastics)--had been dropped, paving the way for a decidedly uncontroversial vote to pass it.
The bill gives new authorities to the Food and Drug Administration, including: access to facility records in a food emergency, more FDA inspections at all food facilities, the ability to force a recall of food suspected to be tainted, the power to suspend a food facility's registration if there's a sign of health risk, and increased funding. The bill also provides for independent labs to get accredited in food testing.
This is probably the most significant lame-duck accomplishment to date, and it is the second significant bill to pass since the midterms. On Nov. 18, the House passed the Telework Improvements Act, a bill designed to enable federal employees to work remotely, which President Obama signed. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) had introduced the food safety bill in March of 2009.