Less than 24 hours after declaring victory in his quest to vastly expand the regulatory powers of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—for the children—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–NV) is mired in a procedural misstep that may well kill the legislation.
Despite the time constraints of the waning session, Reid focused Senate attention on passage of S. 510, the Food Safety Protection Act, which was approved on Tuesday by a vote of 73–25.
Spanning some150 pages, the act authorizes the FDA to dictate how farmers grow fruits and vegetables, including rules governing soil, water, hygiene, packing, temperatures, and even what animals may roam which fields and when. It would also increase inspections of food “facilities” and tax them to do so.
That’s the rub. The House version of the bill does not contain the “revenue raiser” in the Senate bill. But the Constitution calls for all tax provisions to originate in the House. Consequently, House Democrats are threatening to block the bill, which would force Reid to waste even more time on a legislative fix or simply admit defeat.
This is not the first time Reid has made a revenue-raising blunder. According to a report in Roll Call, his efforts to pass a tourism promotion bill was also stymied earlier this year because the Senate version likewise contained tax increases that did not originate in the House.
Consumers need not fear defeat of the legislation. Notwithstanding alarmist claims, the nation’s food supply has never been safer. Incident rates of food-borne illness have actually been declining for more than a decade, in spite of higher consumption of the raw foods that are most often associated with outbreaks of food-borne illness. The proposed regulations are nothing but an ineffective answer to a manufactured crisis.