House to take up food-safety bill this week

The House this week will consider legislation to modernize the nation's food-safety protections, a top Democrat indicated Tuesday.

Although the Senate passed a food-safety bill last week, it contained tax provisions that, according to the Constitution, must originate in the House.  

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters Tuesday that the lower chamber this week will take up a new House bill, in hopes of sending it back to the Senate before the weekend.

Though the House last year had passed a much stronger food-safety bill pushed by liberal members of the caucus, the proposal emerging this week will more closely resemble the Senate-passed version, Hoyer indicated.

"We think that's a better bill," Hoyer said of the initial House measure, "but we're inclined to take the Senate bill, and the new bill will reflect the Senate bill."

Returning the bill to the Senate complicates the process. Not only have Senate Republicans vowed to oppose anything that hits the floor before tax cuts and government funding matters are finalized, but the second upper chamber vote allows Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) another chance to block the bill.

Last month, Coburn had forced a lengthy debate on the measure, which eventually passed easily, 73 to 25. Coburn's stalling tactics have left bill supporters wary that there's little room on the Senate calendar to accommodate the food safety vote if he repeats them.