In an unexpected late-night move, the Senate passed the Food Safety Modernization Act – with the Tester-Hagan amendment protecting small farms intact – by voice vote on Sunday, December 19th. The bill is expected to be taken up in the House of Representatives tomorrow.
The food safety bill hit a roadblock after passing the Senate in late November because a provision requiring the collection of user fees violated the Constitutional mandate that all revenue-generating measures must originate in the House. House leaders then attached the bill as an amendment to two separate spending bills, neither of which were able to gain Republican support in the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) circumvented the original technical mistake by attaching the bill to a House-originated measure (HR 2751) authorizing a cash-for-clunkers program – a “shell bill” with bipartisan support. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), who had threatened to filibuster S.510 in November, dropped his objection at the last minute, allowing the food safety bill to pass unanimously. The Washington Post reported this morning that Coburn staffer John Hart did not know why the Senator relented.
For more information on the content and history of the bill, see the NSAC archive of food safety blog posts here.