Coburn again objects to food safety bill, offers alternative

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) again delayed passage of food safety legislation on Wednesday but offered his own, paid-for alternative.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had asked for unanimous consent on a bipartisan agreement worked out by the Senate HELP Committee, incorporating amendments exempting small farmers and restrictions on the use of the Bisphenol-A chemical in food and beverage containers. Coburn objected but said he'd approve an alternative that appropriates rather than authorizes money for the bill and does not include the Bisphenol-A restrictions, sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)

Reid said he'd think about it.

"Because this is something I had not anticipated," Reid said on the floor, "I will withdraw my [unanimous consent] request and I will renew it at a later time if I can come to something that's more appropriate."

A Senate Democratic staffer said Reid is unlikely to agree since the underlying bill was worked out between the two parties. If the Senate can't pass food safety by unanimous consent, it's unlikely to have time to come to the floor for debate before the mid-term elections.

The legislation would give FDA the power to recall tainted food, quarantine geographical areas and access food producers’ records. The House passed its version of food safety in July 2009.