Food Safety Bill Runs Afoul of the Constitution, But Not In the Way You Think


food safety

The lame duck Congress has been hustling to get new food safety regulations in place before flying south (and north and east and west) for the winter. But the version passed by the Senate this week seems to have run afoul of a pesky little constitutional provision.

And what is the objection that has brought the process to a halt? It's not concerns about big companies shutting out smaller local competitors. Nor is it debate about whether the new rules will actually make us safer, as Ron Bailey ruefully notes.

Nope. As devoted Congress-watchers know, the only instance in which you can consistently rely on our elected representatives to stand up for the Constitution is when their own privileges are threatened:

A food safety bill that has burned up precious days of the Senate's lame-duck session appears headed back to the chamber because Democrats violated a constitutional provision requiring that tax provisions originate in the House.

By pre-empting the House's tax-writing authority, Senate Democrats appear to have touched off a power struggle with members of their own party in the House. The Senate passed the bill Tuesday, sending it to the House, but House Democrats are expected to use a procedure known as "blue slipping" to block the bill, according to House and Senate GOP aides….

This is not the first time that Reid has run afoul of the Constitution's tax origination provisions. His efforts to pass a tourism promotion bill that was key to his re-election hopes was temporarily stymied earlier this year because the Senate passed a version with revenue raisers similar to those in the food safety bill.

At The New York Times, they're calling this an "arcane parlimentary mistake," but Reid's two-part pattern of playing fast and loose suggests there may be more serious issues at stake. Either way, the debate will now be about parliamentary procedure and not whether the bill is yet another example of harmful meddling and/or congressional overreach.