Food-safety bill may face opposition of GOP senators

A food-safety measure described by Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., as needed to “finally bring food safety in this country into the 21st century” seems mired in constitutional issues that could require a second vote.

It’s a vote that might be forestalled by Senate Republicans who are intent on forcing a vote first on extending the Bush tax cuts, which Colorado’s two senators support, but in different forms.

The sticking point for S.B. 501, the Food Safety Modernization Act, is a provision to establish fees intended to raise revenues, which are interpreted as new taxes. Any bill increasing taxes must originate in the House, and the House version of the bill contains no similar provision.

House Republicans don’t have the votes to prevent adoption of the Senate-approved measure, but the 42 Senate Republicans have the votes to filibuster a second vote.

The 42 Republicans wrote Wednesday to Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., saying they would block any measure until the Senate votes on extending the Bush tax cuts and approves a continuing resolution extending the current budget.

The Republicans wrote, “We will not agree to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers.”

A spokesman for Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., told Roll Call that Coburn wouldn’t support bringing the bill back for a second Senate vote.

Bennet has said he supports a yearlong extension of the tax cuts, but his priority is the extension of those for people earning less than $250,000. Udall has said he wants to see them extended for earners making $250,000 a year or less.


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