Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) sparred over the food safety bill on the Senate floor, providing no progress and more political hurdles for a bill that has been plagued by setbacks.

Yesterday afternoon Coburn rejected Reid’s attempt to bring the bill up under unanimous consent, a procedural move to limit debate and set rules for amendments. Coburn took the floor and reiterated his objection to the pending bill, citing the measure’s $1.4 billion price tag, and the fact that it does not address systemic jurisdictional issues.

Coburn then offered his own deal, which would require the authorizing bill to provide specific offsets. (Important to note: The unanimous consent agreement Reid is proposing would allow Coburn to bring this amendment to the floor during the debate).    

“Congress’ response to years of its own failed oversight and fiscal

irresponsibility is to steal money from future generations and repeat

the same failed regulatory policies of the past.  More money and more

regulations solve nothing when Congress lacks the discipline to hold

agencies accountable,” Coburn said.

Coburn also proposed new terms for debate, which would nix Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s

(D-CA) ability to bring her controversial bisphenol-A amendment to the

floor, a measure allowed under the terms of Reid’s proposal.

After some wordplay and procedural confusion, Reid and Coburn left the floor no closer to a compromise.

According to Politico, top Republican and Democrat aides say the Senate will revisit the legislation today but neither side has hinted at giving way.

Deadlock and finger pointing
“There is no excuse to wait any longer,” said Reid yesterday. “Our current food safety system hasn’t been updated in almost a century.”
“Nothing could be more important than using our time here to keep our constituents safe,” he added.  “Nothing should be less controversial than keeping them out of harm’s way.  Let’s move to this common-sense bill and pass it.”

Coburn shot right back. “Senate Majority Leader Reid alone is responsible for not bringing this bill to the floor for a full and open debate.”

“Only the Majority Leader can explain how he found time to debate gays in the military, immigration and campaign finance – pet priorities of his political base – ahead of food safety,” he said.

“The schedule certainly suggests Congress is more interested in its political safety than food safety,” added Coburn. “If the Majority Leader believes this legislation is a matter of life and death he should agree to advance a version that is paid for.”