'Clerical error' holds up food safety bill

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — An error in the F.D.A. Food Safety Modernization Act, S. 510, which was approved by the U.S. Senate on Nov. 30 by a vote of 73 to 25, has complicated efforts to enact food safety reform legislation during the lame-duck session of Congress. According to the Roll Call newspaper, the Senate bill included new fees, some of which were viewed as revenue raisers, i.e., taxes, and as such must originate in the House under the Constitution. Because the bill originated in the Senate, it violated the Constitution, and the House must now pass a new version of the bill and send it to the Senate for a vote.

The Roll Call noted that the process may open a renewed round of procedural challenges by Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who opposes the measure and who could stretch out the process for several more days before a final vote may occur.

The measure long has enjoyed strong bipartisan support in the Senate. Its passage was delayed until the lame duck session primarily because of objections raised by Mr. Coburn, which required the bill to run a gauntlet of procedural votes before advancing to the final tally.

The House of Representatives passed its version of food safety reform legislation, the Food Safety Enhancement Act, on July 30, 2009.

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