Coburn maintains opposition to food-safety bill despite amendment offering

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday offered to allow Sen. Tom Coburn to offer an amendment to pending food-safety legislation, but the Oklahoma Republican turned him down.

"If the Majority Leader wants the bill to advance he should pay for it," Coburn spokesman John Hart said. "Dr. Coburn isn't responsible for the Majority Leader's failure to write offsets into the base bill."

The legislation would give FDA the power to recall tainted food, quarantine geographical areas and access food producers’ records.

Coburn has been holding up the bill out of concerns over its $1.4 billion price tag over five years, not including $230 million directly offset by new fees. In the absence of guaranteed future appropriations, Coburn writes on his Web site, "at best we are just passing it for a press release, and at worse, we shackle the FDA with unfunded mandates."

Reid on Tuesday asked for unanimous consent allowing that, after consultation with the Republican leader, the Senate take up the bill with only three amendments in order: 

- An amendment by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) exempting small farms; 

- Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif.) amendment restricting the use of the Bisphenol A chemical; 

- A Coburn amendment regarding "offset for cost of bill."

The Senate health committee released a bipartisan food-safety manager's amendment during the first week of the August recess. The House passed its bill in July 2009.