Citing GOP opposition, Senate Majority Leader Reid said Thursday the chamber is unlikely to consider food safety legislation before it leaves for the midterm elections.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., is the lone opponent to a bipartisan bill that would overhaul how the FDA monitors the nation’s food supply.
“We spent a whole Congress on this, and at the last minute, he comes in, and likely we’re not going to be able to get this done before we go home,” said Reid on the Senate floor.
Reid used the example of the food safety bill to lament the backlog of House-passed legislation that is unlikely to get Senate consideration due to Republican opposition, and he urged members to focus on the “person that’s holding this up.”
“We have almost 400 matters that have passed the House of Representatives, and we can’t deal with them because the Republicans say no. That’s not the way to do business. In years past, these things would have gone through really very easily,” Reid said.
Coburn countered by calling for a floor debate on the legislation’s merits.
“If the majority leader wants the bill to advance, he should pay for it,” Coburn said in a statement. “If he doesn’t want to pay for it, he should then bring it to the floor and explain to the American people why he can’t cut a penny of wasteful Washington spending to pay for a bill he says is a matter of life and death.”
Food safety groups expressed dismay at the Senate’s delay and said they will start to discuss strategy on how to proceed with lobbying.
“We’re discouraged by the announcement, and we’ve got to take it seriously,” said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for United Fresh, a group that represents produce growers.
“We’re going to be looking for ways to get the bill passed, but it looks like it’s going to be hard before they leave,” he added.
A spokeswoman for the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee said HELP Chairman Tom Harkin would continue to work to pass the bill before the end of the year.
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