Food safety bill looks dead, though Democrats say they haven't given up

Democrats say they haven't given up on legislation that would overhaul the nation's food safety system, but a Republican Senate aide said the bill is dead after the omnibus spending bill it was tacked on to was defeated Thursday night.
 
The Food Safety Modernization Act was included in the proposed omnibus spending bill that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) threw out Thursday night when it became clear it didn't have the votes to pass. Reid said he would work with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Friday morning to propose a short-term continuing resolution.
 
"We are working with our Republican colleagues to include [food safety] in the continuing resolution," a Reid spokeswoman said.
 
However, a Republican Senate aide told The Hill that the food safety legislation will not be included in the new continuing resolution.
 
If the legislation is not included, it would likely mark the end of the bill's torturous path through Congress. The bill passed both chambers by wide margins. But the Senate's 73-25 passage of the bill last month was voided after it was discovered that the upper chamber had tacked on a tax provision that is constitutionally required to originate in the House.
 
With Republicans vowing to block any bills before settling tax and spending issues, House leaders included the bill in the continuing resolution. The resolution narrowly passed the House as Republicans objected to the legislative maneuver, but was headed for defeat in the Senate.
 
The bill would give the Food and Drug Administration power to recall tainted food, quarantine geographical areas and access food producers' records. Similar legislation passed the House in July 2009.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), a co-sponsor of the legislation, urged Congress to pass the bill on Wednesday after a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report said that one in six individuals suffers from a foodborne illness each year.
 
"If we do not act quickly to modernize our food safety system," Harkin said, "millions more Americans will fall ill due to contaminated food, and thousands more will die."

Julian Pecquet contributed to this report.