Feinstein: 'I am not holding up the food safety bill'

Sen. Dianne Feinstein pushed back this week against the argument — aired recently by voices on both sides of the aisle — that she's obstructing a food safety bill moving through Congress.

"I have never expressed opposition to it, nor have I refused to allow it to move forward unless my BPA legislation is in the bill," the California Democrat wrote Friday in Politico

The "BPA" reference is to Feinstein's proposal to ban the use of Bisphenol A (BPA) in children's food and beverage containers. A toxic chemical linked to cancer, BPA is used in countless plastic products, including water and baby bottles. Feinstein is hoping to attach her amendment to a food safety bill Senate Democrats want pass later this year. 

The House sponsor of that legislation, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), has already made crystal-clear his concerns that such an addition could sink the underlying bill — a proposal the 84-year-old Michigan Democrat has been pushing for years.

“Time is running out,” Dingell wrote to Feinstein in July. “Our choices are becoming increasingly clear, we can either find middle ground, or we can become obstinate in our views and fail to meet any of our goals."

The House passed the Dingell bill almost 14 months ago, by an easy margin of 283-142.

Former GOP Rep. Bob Barr (Ga.) this month also went after Feinstein for allegedly obstructing the bill. Her amendment, Barr wrote Wednesday in Politico, is "a poison pill" in the eyes of many lawmakers because "banning the use of BPA in food packaging would make canned and packaged food much less safe, even as it would make those products much more expensive, because there are simply no viable alternatives yet developed at a reasonable cost.

"Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the president need to take Feinstein to the woodshed and explain all this to her," Barr wrote.

In her response to Barr Friday, Feinstein took on both allegations head on.

"What I have asked for is the opportunity to offer an amendment to the bill that would ban BPA from children’s food and beverage containers," she wrote. "A simple up-or-down vote — that’s it."

As for Barr's claim that there are no alternatives to BPA: "This is inaccurate," Feinstein writes. 

"My amendment does not include a ban on general consumer products and cans. It would phase out BPA in children’s food and beverage containers: baby bottles, sippy cups, baby food and infant formula — all of which have alternative, safe, BPA-free packaging."

Senate leaders are hoping to take up the food safety bill later this month after Congress returns from its summer vacation.