Process Error Could Kill the Dems' One Lame Duck VictoryDecember 1, 2010 - by Donny Shaw
A food safety bill that has burned up precious days of the Senate’s lame-duck session appears headed back to the chamber because Democrats violated a constitutional provision requiring that tax provisions originate in the House.
By pre-empting the House’s tax-writing authority, Senate Democrats appear to have touched off a power struggle with members of their own party in the House. The Senate passed the bill Tuesday, sending it to the House, but House Democrats are expected to use a procedure known as “blue slipping” to block the bill, according to House and Senate GOP aides.
Read the offending provision for yourself right here — Sec. 107. Authority to Collect Fees.
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] has two choices for getting this done.
One, he brings H.R. 2749, the food safety bill that the House passed last year, to the Senate floor and attempts to add the text of the Senate bill, S. 510, as a substitute amendment. That way the Senate bill will live inside the shell of a bill originating from the House and technically satisfy the constitutional requirement. The House would then have to vote again on agreeing to the Senate’s amendment to the bill. Should be no problem to get the votes, but this approach would eat up precious Senate time that Reid would probably rather hold onto for other legislation. If the Republicans want to slow things down — and it appears they do — fixing this simple technicality in the bill could take up to four days of floor time.
The second option is to just push this bill back to next year and hope that the Republican House leadership, who will control the agenda, agrees to take it up then. Rep. John Boehner [R, OH-8], the next Speaker of the House, voted against the food safety bill last year, so this route is not guaranteed by any means. But Roll Call suggests this is the most likely outcome: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could simply drop the issue and let the next session of Congress start from scratch, a strategy that would allow him time in the lame-duck session to tackle other last-minute priorities, such as the expiring 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, a long-term continuing resolution, an immigration bill and a repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay service members.”