Senate Leaders Strike Deal on Food Safety; Commence Breath Holding

Leading Democrats and Republicans in the Senate came to an agreement today on pending food safety legislation, Congress Daily  reports. The compromise will be introduced on the floor as a managers’ amendment to replace the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) which was approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee in November 2009. The managers’ amendment has not yet been released, but presumably, it largely resembles S. 510.

Update: The amendment is available, and it contains at least one significant change.

The House passed a much-needed food safety reform bill in July 2009, but companion legislation has been held up in the Senate for a frustratingly long time. Food safety reform enjoys bipartisan support, but the bill has been demoted below other priorities.

Additionally, some Senators are seeking to attach amendments of varying utility to the bill. From Congress Daily:

The managers’ amendment, which is expected to be posted on the HELP Web site today, will not address controversial Democratic amendments from Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California that would ban the use of bisphenol-A, a common plastic additive known as BPA, and Sen. Jon Tester of Montana to exempt food producers that generate less than $500,000 in sales per year or sell food directly in a farmer’s market from new regulations. 

So what does all this mean? Probably nothing. The Feinstein and Tester amendments were apparently among the sticking points preventing the bill from reaching the floor. Those sticking points have not been resolved, ergo, the same difficulties remain.

“Harkin’s staff said conversations on outstanding issues are ongoing as the legislation heads to the floor,” Congress Daily reports. Whereas you or I might call this “delay,” the United States Senate calls it, “compromise.”

The Senators who worked out the compromise hope to bring the bill to the floor “as soon as possible,” The Hill reports. Of course, we’ve heard that before, with no results. If the Senate gets its act together and passes food safety reform by the end of the year, it will be a small miracle.


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