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The Perils of Constitutional Ignorance



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The food safety bill is almost certainly dead. Why? Don’t blame it on GOP obstructionism — while Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) robustly opposed the bill, citing its unpaid-for $1.4 billion price tag, and its new (and ineffective, he argued) regulations, that didn’t stop plenty of Republican senators from backing it.

Instead, it’s because Senate majority leader Harry Reid forgot about that pesky constitutional requirement that all taxes originate in the House.

Here’s the background: The Food Safety bill passed the House in 2009. It had stalled in the Senate, to many Democrats’ dismay, and so Reid spent valuable days during the lame-duck session on debating and voting on the bill. In the end, the bill passed by a comfortable margin, 73 to 25. The White House issued a jubilant statement and urged the House to act quickly to reconcile the Senate and House versions.

And then they discovered that because the Senate bill raised revenues it was unconstitutional. So, the solution became to pass a constitutional food safety bill — as part of the omnibus spending bill.

Since that failed last night, it looks like the food safety legislation is dead. While Democrats are hoping to include the legislation in the continuing resolution, a GOP senate aide told The Hill that won’t be happening.



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