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Monday
Dec202010

Food Safety Bill Passes Senate in Unexpected Last-Minute Move

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In an unexpected move, the Senate Sunday passed a sweeping food safety bill by unanimous consent, sending the bill back for a vote in the House before it can move on to President Obama’s desk.

The surprising development is only the latest bizarre twist for the measure.  Just a few days ago the food safety bill was seen as dead on Capitol Hill, but the Senate modified it to resolve a revenue technicality and managed to pass it.  The modification means it has to return to the House.  The revenue issue is key in the long bizarre story of the bill.

In July 2009, the House first passed the bill, aiming to prevent massive outbreaks of tainted food by giving the Food and Drug Administration the authority to order mandatory recalls and require more frequent inspections of high-risk food processing plants.  But the bill then languished in the Senate for 15 months in the face of opposition from Republicans who objected to it adding around $1.5 billion to the deficit.

Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma argued that the bill needed to be fully paid for and do a better job of addressing regulatory failures.  However, in November, the Senate finally passed the food safety bill.

Except for one problem.  A tax provision included in the Senate bill violated the revenue rule, so instead of being sent to President Obama’s desk, the bill remained stuck in Congress.

The Senate then put the food safety bill into the massive $1.1 trillion year-end omnibus bill, giving supporters of the measure renewed hope that it might still get passed after all.  But no.

Last Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in the face of widespread GOP opposition, decided to scrap the omnibus bill in favor of a short-term continuing resolution to fund the government into early 2011.  At that point the food safety bill was considered dead.  Until Sunday’s surprising development in the Senate, that is.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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