Making law can be lot like a Space Shuttle launch.
One minute it’s “Velocity 22 hundred 57 feet per second…Altitude 4.3 nautical miles…Downrange distance 3 nautical miles. Engines throttling up…Three engines now at 104 percent. Challenger, go at Throttle Up…Roger, Go at Throttle Up.”
Then Challenger blew up and fell to the sea with all lost.
If and when later this month, Majority Leader Harry Reid brings S. 510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, to the Senate floor, he at least won’t be dead if the whole thing blows up.
But it is past time to find out what is going to happen when its “Go, Throttle Up” for S. 510.
S. 510 will have to navigate its way through to a Senate floor vote at a time when its savvy opponents have mounted a national campaign in support of amendments by the team of Jon Tester, D-MT, and Kay Hagen, D-NC.
Those amendments would exempt “small processing facilities” from traceability, hazard analysis, and risk-based preventive controls. Average gross income of less than $500,000 is defined as “small” under the Tester-Hagen amendments.
Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-CA, will also be churning the waters on S. 510. She wants to use it as a vehicle to ban bisphenol A (BPA) in food-contact containers. A savvy negotiator, Feinstein might settle for a BPA ban for only baby bottles and so-called sippy cups.
That may be a sideshow. If, however, Senators Tester and Hagen have a veto over the language that may be adopted by the upper body, it raises discomforting possibilities for S. 510 advocates.
First, plenty of people in rural America still want to drive a stake through the heart of S. 510. If Tester-Hagen gets up too much of a head of steam, the Senate herd might be turned. “Go, Throttle Up!”
Second, until now the bill the House passed and S. 510 were thought to be close enough in the content to make most observers think the Conference Committee to work out differences would not be all that big of a deal. If Tester-Hagen end up re-writing S. 510 too much, John Dingell, the longest serving member of the House who wrote the lower chamber’s bill, may have problems with Senate concessions.
Third, some observers think that while there maybe a solid Senate majority in favor of S. 510, it may be the very kind of bipartisan bill that Reid does not want chewing up precious floor time this close to the 2010 election. S. 510 was unanimously recommended for passage by the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee.
These are but a few possibilities. One thing’s for certain, though. There are going to be many twists and turns to the S. 510 story before any food safety bill is ready for a Rose Garden signing ceremony.
Whatever is going to happen, however, it is time to light a match to this candle and see what the hell is going to happen.
Update: Sen. Hagen’s party identification was incorrectly listed in the original version. It has been corrected here.