Apparently, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn loves two things in this world: needless obstruction and salmonella:
Coburn's office confirmed to POLITICO on Tuesday that the Republican is objecting to moving forward with the bill on the grounds that it will add to the burgeoning federal budget. Coburn has become the GOP champion for demanding that legislation be fully paid for, staging or threatening filibusters this year on legislation ranging from war spending to unemployment benefits.
"Yes, he’s concerned the bill is not offset," said Coburn spokesman John Hart. "We can’t afford to spend money we don’t have any longer."
The fuss is over a new food-safety bill that would be the first major overhaul of the system in more than 70 years. While the legislation gained attention after this summer's massive salmonella outbreak -- and subsequent investigation into the egg farm's criminal irresponsibility -- it's been on the table for over a year; House Democrats, passed their version of the bill in July 2009, with ample support from Republicans. The bill itself is a no-brainer; it would require farmers and food manufacturers to identify risks, prevent contamination, and monitor procedures for safety, updating them when necessary. Further inspection and enforcement from the FDA would be funded with a small fee levied on food producers and importers. Similar measures have been in place for seafood and juice producers since the 1990s and are widely thought to have been effective in reducing outbreaks. It's pretty much accurate to say that Coburn's objection marks him as resolutely pro-food contamination.
I should also add that Coburn's deficit concerns, like those of his colleagues, are incredibly disingenuous; at $1.4 billion over five years, the Congressional Budget Office lists this new system as deficit neutral and compliant with the Senate's pay-go rules. By contrast, the Bush tax cut extension -- which Coburn supports in full -- will cost $3.9 trillion over the next 10 years, with costs growing in each subsequent decade. In other words, Coburn is "meh" about the 5,000 people killed by tainted food every year but absolutely bonkers about shoveling taxpayer cash at the rich. It's nice to see that he has his priorities in order.
-- Jamelle Bouie
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