Lost in all the election hoopla and the debate over repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” has been U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn’s fierce opposition to a vital food safety bill.
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act has been delayed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid after Coburn objected to the bill, according to media reports. Reid has said he might not even try to bring the bill to the Senate floor before the election, the reports stated. The House has already passed a similar proposal.
The recent massive egg recall has put food safety in the political forefront, but Coburn hasn’t budged on his opposition to the bill, which he argues isn’t paid for and won’t be effective, according to reports. He also objects to the new regulations in the bill.
The legislation, among other things, would require more inspections of food-producing facilities. It has bipartisan and even corporate support.
According to a story in The New York Times:
… mainstream consumer advocates and major food makers are nearly united in calling for passage. Just a few years ago, many manufacturers were opposed to expanding the F.D.A.’s food authority. But when a relatively small producer sold contaminated spinach several years ago, the entire industry’s crop was thrown out, resulting in huge, industrywide losses. And once a food contamination scare affects a product, sales are slow to return to normal.
So even when consumer advocates and corporations come together for the benefit of people’s health and business profits, Coburn, who has the nickname “Dr. No,” still uses it for political theater and calculation.
Here’s what Coburn said about the bill in a recent press release:
The Majority Leader also knows that one of my concerns with the bill is that it is not paid for. Unfortunately, he has refused to even discuss ways to pay for the bill by reducing spending on lower priority items. With our national debt at $13.5 trillion we simply can’t continue to borrow and spend without restraint. The American people should question the competence of any member of Congress who can’t find $1.4 billion of waste in a $3.5 trillion budget that could be cut to pay for improved food safety.
The federal deficit “scare,” of course is Coburn’s current mantra, and it’s also a major election tactic of the Republicans this year. But we shouldn’t forget that under former President George Bush Republicans helped create the deficit by funding two long military occupations and passing tax cuts that primarily benefited the country’s wealthiest citizens.
Reid issued this statement about Coburn’s objections to the bill:
In light of recent events like the egg recall in Iowa, it is unconscionable that Senator Coburn and his Republican colleagues are putting politics ahead of a common-sense, bipartisan bill to ensure that the food products our families consume everyday are safe. I suspect that Senator Coburn’s constituents in Oklahoma would be as outraged as the people I represent in Nevada at the prospect that partisan political maneuvering would cause parents to have to start worrying about the safety of the food they feed their families. There are too many people, like Rylee Gustafson of Henderson and Linda Rivera of Las Vegas, who have been sickened with contaminated food to let this critical issue be hijacked by petty politics.
My hope is that Senator Coburn will reconsider his obstruction, and work with us to make sure that when it comes to food, parents have the peace of mind that all Americans deserve.