Food Safety Dies With Spending Bill

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Tea partiers can’t exactly take credit for it, but it looks like the landmark food safety bill passed earlier this month that they fought bitterly isn’t going to make it to the president’s desk after all.

Earlier this month, Congress managed to pass the bill with strong bipartisan support—and over the objections of both tea partiers afraid the bill would send the government after their seeds and leftie foodie types who feared the bill would squash small farms and artisanal cheese makers. The bill was a decade in the making, despite record numbers of food borne illness outbreaks, from E. coli in spinach to salmonella in peanut butter that killed nine people. A day after the bill passed, however, news broke that language in the bill had been screwed up, rendering it unconstitutional.

Supporters had hoped that a repaired bill would still land on the president’s desk this year if it could pass along with a big omnibus spending bill slated for a vote this week. But after Republicans defected in the face of pressure from tea party activists opposed to $8 billion in earmarks buried in the bill, Democrats were forced to withdraw the spending measure, taking the food safety bill along with it. Democrats also tried attaching the food safety bill to a continuing resolution that would have funded the federal government until September. But Republicans have also opposed that measure, leaving Democrats with a scaled-down resolution that would merely keep the government open until February, when the new Congress can deal with the rest of the issues.

Unfortunately, there is no food safety bill in that measure, meaning that unless Democrats come up with another strategy to pass it in the next 24 hours, it’s likely to be dead in the water. Bill Marler, a Seattle lawyer who represents the victims of food poisoning, was here in DC this week lobbying for the bill’s passage. He’s been working on it for years and thought the fight was finally over. Now he’s not hopeful that it will ever pass. “I can’t see of a way to get it done … It’s sort of mind-numbing to me that a bill that passed with more [votes] than it would take to make a treaty, in both houses, a bill that had that much support is dying because of what it comes down to is power politics,” he says.

As if to drive home the need for the bill, Marler says he woke up this morning in DC only to learn that there’s been an E. coli outbreak stemming from cheese made with raw milk, some of the very products crying out for better regulation. “It’s not like I’m not going to be out of work,” he laments.

UPDATE: The bill unexpectedly passed on Sunday. Read more here.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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