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Senate Rejects Delay of Swipe Fee Reform

June 9, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The banking industry lost a vote on Capitol Hill yesterday for what seems like the first time since the first TARP attempt was rejected in 2008. The question was if the Federal Reserve's new rules limiting how much banks can charge retailers for debit transactions, as mandated by last year's financial regulatory overhaul bill, should go into effect this summer as scheduled or be delayed for a year, giving banks more time to lobby against it. In the end, a majority of the Senate voted in favor of the delay (54-45) but it wasn't enough to overcome a procedural hurdle and it was ultimately rejected.

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Yesterday I wrote about the Senate's latest attempt to actually do something about the unemployment crisis. Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] called on the Senate to proceed to the bipartisan Economic Development Revitalization Act of 2011, which reauthorizes the Economic Development Administration to make grants to struggling communities for the purpose of creating and retaining jobs. Yesterday the Senate did something they rarely do these days -- they actually agreed to drop a pending filibuster and move to debate the bill by unanimous consent. That's progress, but here's the problem. The bill has already been loaded up with dozens of unrelated, controversial amendments, and if senators exercise their right to insist on holding votes on them, there is almost no way this non-controversial, bipartisan jobs bill will survive.

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Local Food Amendment Advances in Senate

November 19, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

When he's not in Washington, Sen. Jon Tester [D, MT] operates a small-scale grain farm in Montanta, so he's sympathetic to concerns that the food safety bill could unfairly burden small farms while trying to address safety concerns that are almost exclusive caused by large industrial food production plants. Yesterday he struck a deal with Senate leadership to have his amendment protecting small and local food companies rolled into the bill via the manager's amendment. Read the summary from Tester's office below and see if you this does enough to protect the local food movement:

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Food Safety Modernization Will Get a Vote This Week

November 16, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) is on tap for a vote in the Senate later this week, but some local food advocates worry it could unfairly impact small farmers. The goal of the bill is to improve regulatory oversight of food production in order to prevent things like the recent salmonella egg and spinach outbreaks. Critics argue that the bill takes a one-size-fits-all approach and would burden small farms with new regulatons that are needed to address problems caused by big agribusiness companies. Below is a summary of the manager's amendment that will become the base text of the bill if a filibuster of beginning debate is defeated in the Senate this week:

 

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A Breakthrough on Food Safety?

August 19, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Last week, an evenly bipartisan group of six senators from the Health, Education, Labor and Pesnsions Committee released a manager's amendment to the long-stalled Senate food safety bill (S.510) that they jope will provide the framework for moving forward. Hill folks are expecting this to come up before the Senate leaves for campaign season.

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Peter Cohn at Congress Daily ($) thinks a deal may be in hand: "An amendment from Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., to strike $25 a week in extra unemployment compensation from a nearly $140 billion package of benefit payments and tax breaks could shore up support among wavering senators concerned about its deficit impact. [...] Tester's amendment would only trim about $6 billion from that figure. But it could be seen as a gesture toward the position espoused by Blue Dogs and Senate Democrats like Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Evan Bayh of Indiana, who are holding out for cost cuts."

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Is the Food Safety Bill Too Hard on Small Farms?

April 15, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Before the Senate moves into the world of financial regulatory reform, they're going to take up a major food safety bill next week, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, that would make food facility inspections more frequent, improve verification of the safety of imported foods, give the FDA authority to issue mandatory recalls of contaminated foods, and more.

As non-controversial and obvious as the bill sounds -- nobody likes E. coli with their spinach or salmonella with their eggs -- a lot of people are firmly against it. Check out, for example, the 22% approval rating it has on OpenCongress. Why all the opposition? Well, the bill doesn't distinguish between huge agribusiness food producers and local farms, and the burden of some of the new regulations could be just too much for small-scale food producers to keep up with. Or so the argument goes.

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