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Senate Democrats violated a constitutional provision with their food safety bill by including language that would levy new fees on food facilities as revenue raisers. Under the Constitution, all legislation increasing taxes must originate in the House, and these fees qualify. "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," Roll Call is reporting. "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."

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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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Another UI Vote Tonight?

July 1, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The Iowa Independent is reporting that Sen. Tom Harkin [D, IA] thinks another vote in the Senate on the unemployment insurance extension is possible tonight: "Another vote on a bill to extend federal unemployment insurance benefits for the long-term unemployed may come to the floor of the Senate as early as Thursday night, according to U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa."

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When the Senate whittled down a $174 billion jobs bill from the House to a mere $15 billion bill, one of the many ideas to hit the cutting room floor was a $23 billion fund to prevent layoffs in education. Last week, Sen. Tom Harkin [D, IA] revived the idea and introduced it as a standalone Senate bill.

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Now that Democrats have put the finishing touches on health care reform, they can get back to the truly important work of Congress: bickering with Republicans over Obama appointees. With a two-week Easter recess looming, players in both parties are wondering whether President Obama will use that time to pluck the pro-labor Craig Becker out of Senate confirmation Purgatory and appoint him to the National Labor Relations Board.

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McCain Backs Away From His Own Vitamin Bill

March 9, 2010 - by Eric Naing

After receiving pushback from Sen. Orrin Hatch [R, UT], Sen. John McCain [R, AZ] has pulled his support for his own bill regulating vitamin supplement manufacturers. Some of Hatch's biggest donors, of course, are in the vitamin supplement industry.

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Bennet Joins The Filibuster Reform Effort

March 9, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Freshman Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet [D, CO] has joined a handful of his Senate colleagues in the effort to reform the filibuster. The filibuster has long been used by both parties when they were in the minority to prevent the Senate from acting on certain measures. But starting with the 110th Congress, when Democrats took control of the House and Senate, the number of filibusters launched by the GOP has skyrocketed to historic levels.

Bennet last week introduced a Senate resolution (S.Res.440) that would not only limit a senator's ability to place anonymous holds, but would also make it easier for a majority party to break a filibuster. The Huffington Post's Sam Stein explains the rather byzantine way Bennet's resolution works:

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A bill to give the Food and Drug Administration more power to regulate the sale of vitamin supplements is sparking heated opposition from the multi-billion dollar dietary supplement industry and creating strange bedfellows.

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Bayh, Lobbyists Fight To Preserve Government Subsidies

February 18, 2010 - by Eric Naing

The White House is again trying to end government subsides to the student loan industry but a multi-million dollar lobbying effort is pushing back.

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Filibuster Reform

February 12, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

After three-and-a-half years of record obstructionism, Sen. Tom Harkin [D, IA] has introduced legislation to reform the Senate's filibuster process.

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Dems See Stimulus Replay In Senate Jobs Bill

February 11, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] is meeting with fellow Democratic senators today to hammer out an agreement over an $85 billion jobs bill.

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Once Upon a Time, Democrats Had a Health Care Deal

January 30, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Just in case any health care reform proponents aren't sufficiently agonized... [Sen. Tom Harkin] said “we had an agreement, with the House, the White House and the Senate. We sent it to [the Congressional Budget Office] to get scored and then Tuesday happened and we didn’t get it back.” He said negotiators had an agreement in hand on Friday, Jan. 15. Harkin made clear that negotiators had reached a final deal on the entire bill, not just the excise plans, which had been reported the previou...

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Musical Committee Chairs

September 9, 2009 - by Paul Blumenthal

Sen. Chris Dodd has decided to remain as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee rather than take over control of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee chairmanship left vacant by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.

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