Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 17, 2010

A BOLD STAND IN SUPPORT OF SALMONELLA.... There's no shortage of evidence, but one of the more striking examples of the Senate's dysfunction is playing out this week over an overhaul of the nation's food safety safeguards.

The legislation passed the House over a year ago, with relative ease, even garnering votes from several dozen Republicans. In the Senate, it has six principal co-sponsors -- three Democrats and three Republicans.

Perhaps most importantly, over the summer, the nation saw at least 1,300 salmonella-related illnesses spanning 22 states, all of which was a direct result of "holes in the country's food safety net." Given that Americans like eating food, and don't like getting sick, the bipartisan bill is a textbook example of a no-brainer.

And yet, it may die. At least one far-right senator believes spending offsets are more important than salmonella.

Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday the Senate will not take up long-pending food safety legislation before the Nov. 2 elections, citing a Republican senator's objections.

Reid announced on the Senate floor that "we're not going to be able to get this done before we go home for the elections." Reid and Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin have been trying to move the bill quickly, but Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who has a long list of concerns about the legislation, has blocked them.

Reid said Coburn's objections mean that the bill (HR 2749) will not be completed before the Senate departs Oct. 8 for the midterm election campaign. "It's just a shame that we can't get this done," Reid said.

Reid, D-Nev., could push the bill through the Senate by filing procedural motions to advance the legislation over Coburn's objections, but doing so would require days of the Senate's time.

That last part is key. A growing number of folks seem to understand that Republican abuses and obstructionism have effectively killed majority rule, creating mandatory supermajorities on everything for the first time in American history. What's far less appreciated is the abuse of the clock/calendar -- in this case, Dems have more than 60 votes. What they didn't have is spare days to spend dealing with Coburn's nonsense. There's too much else to do, and not enough time to do it.

And so yet another important bill is pushed off, perhaps indefinitely.

What would it take to make Coburn happy? The far-right Oklahoman's objection is over cost -- the bill carries a price tag of $1.4 billion over five years. That's not a typo. This is one of the cheapest bills Congress will consider this year, but rather than add a miniscule amount to the deficit, Coburn would rather sacrifice Americans' food safety.

Coburn, it's worth noting, cannot allow $1.4 billion to be added to the deficit over the next five years. He is, however, entirely comfortable with adding $700 billion to the deficit over 10 years, so long as it's in the form of tax cuts for the wealthy. Coburn is on board with the spread of E Coli, but balks at Clinton-era tax rates for millionaires.

This, for reasons that escape me, is not considered a national scandal. Indeed, most of the country will probably never hear a word about this.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (28)

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The phrase you are looking for is "E Coli Conservative"

(see Perlstein, Rick)

Posted by: anon on September 17, 2010 at 8:09 AM | PERMALINK

isn't Tom Coburn a doctor?
An actually, honest to goodness M.D.?

Posted by: gus on September 17, 2010 at 8:11 AM | PERMALINK

Why is it that Republicans have the ability to take fake stories (e.g. death panels) and make sure that not one person in the country is not aware of it, with a good portion even coming to believe it.

Yet Democrats can't seem to take a situation where a Republican is increasing the likliehood people will die of food poisoning, and make it a big story.

Are Democrats that lame, or is it that the media only cares about things Republicans claim to be a scandal, or some combiation of the two. Just amazing.

Posted by: ESM on September 17, 2010 at 8:13 AM | PERMALINK

Oh. That's right.
He's of the party which has no sense of shame.
Wotta fool am I to forget something so simple.

Posted by: gus on September 17, 2010 at 8:14 AM | PERMALINK

This, for reasons that escape me, is not considered a national scandal. Indeed, most of the country will probably never hear a word about this.

It sucks when you don't have a coast-to-coast 24/7 propaganda machine to get your message out...

Posted by: RP on September 17, 2010 at 8:21 AM | PERMALINK

This, for reasons that escape me, is not considered a national scandal. Indeed, most of the country will probably never hear a word about this.

That last bit is also a national scandal, and the blame lies squarely with the media. And yet movement conservatives will still insist that the media are liberal.

Coburn and the Republicans get away with the damage they do this country with their unprecedented obstructionism because the so-called "liberal media" simply notes it doesn't have the "60 votes needed to move forward," with nary a peep that such a requirement never existed before.

Posted by: Gregory on September 17, 2010 at 8:21 AM | PERMALINK

Well, HARRY, the country sure as Hell WON'T hear about it if you let the Senate go home without at least TRYING to do something!
Is there a reason that he can't hold the Senate in DC for a few days? Make a big deal about it. "We're Democrats are staying here to protect you, because the Republicans don't care if you die of food poisoning around the elections and over the holidays! Let your Republican Senator know he or she can go home when they know it's safe for us to eat!"
Nah, Harry will let the Senate go home with his tail between his legs.
After all, there're re-election campaigns for a third of the club.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on September 17, 2010 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

pardon my redundancy:
Isn't the earlier oath Coburn took before being elected to Congress something that sez:

First, do no harm?

It is completely incongruous.

Posted by: gus on September 17, 2010 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

But what about those terror babies who will become farmers in 20 or 30 years and poison our food supply?

Posted by: flyonthewall on September 17, 2010 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

Of course he is a darling of the *pro-life* set, go figure....

Posted by: the seal on September 17, 2010 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK







Posted by: KurtRex1453 on September 17, 2010 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

Why should Coburn be concerned? The top 2% of the population, which is his main concern, can hire food tasters.

Posted by: Diane Rodriguez on September 17, 2010 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

SERIOUSLY! In a season, of silliness and junk reports... COULD it HURT to drop a million or so on a few hundred ads on a national scale to BASH the REPUBS for being in the pocket of BIG AGRICULTURE?

EVERYONE KNOWS how disgusting egg farms are. Time to force the ADVANTAGES of an ACTIVE GOVERNMENT down the throat of the Repubs.


Posted by: KurtRex1453 on September 17, 2010 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

yes, coburn is an "honest-to-goodness" M.D.
salmonella and e.coli are good for business.

Posted by: mellowjohn on September 17, 2010 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

Infected food supplies will weed out the weak and infirm in our society. These people did not pull themselves up by their bootstraps, become wealthy and able to afford food from stores other than Wal-Mart and Save-A-Lot. Therefore they deserve to die. Just like fat people.

Posted by: citizen_pain on September 17, 2010 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

p.s. does anyone else think "sam and ella's" would be a neat name for a restaurant? or is it just me?

Posted by: mellowjohn on September 17, 2010 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

I think Caligula was on to something when he appointed his horse to the Senate.

Posted by: hornblower on September 17, 2010 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK


I guess what gets me is noone is calling him on his priorities in relation to this legislation?

Seems easy enough to say:

"... the doctor has a second opinion of tainted food, he's all for it."

Or, point out that he probably wasn't a very good doctor. Hit 'em where it hurts. Put the onus on them. it isn't enough to say he is holding things up, he's a hypocrite on the hippocratic oath.

To squeeze him for his position seems easy, too. But, squeeze him on the position he is not taking. That's the more important aspect. His concerns about money don't mean a thing. It is a food safety bill. People care about such things.

Well, not all people do, not the so called doctor from Oklahoma.

Posted by: gus on September 17, 2010 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

Some congressman needs to trail Coburn and the minute he gets in front of a camera, get in his grill about his blocking this bill and steal his thunder.

That's how you get the MSM to start paying attention to your issues. You gotta crash the party.

Posted by: bdop4 on September 17, 2010 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

I think Reid should make a big deal out of this NOW! If the dems had been fighting this kind of horse shit tooth and nail since the start we wou;dn't have to possibly be subjected to these assholes gaining power.

Posted by: Gandalf on September 17, 2010 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

mellowjohn @ 9:25 Major LOL! That was hilarious! Thank you.

Posted by: Athena on September 17, 2010 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

If Coburn were to get a case of food poisoning, even a mild case, it would be justice served.

Posted by: wbn on September 17, 2010 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Oh? Coburn has objections? Well by all means, let's table that sucker and get on with the campaign. We don't want to interfere with the republicans agenda just for the health of the American people. That can _always_ wait.

Posted by: CDW on September 17, 2010 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, Coburn is a doctor. He's also for extending the Bush tax cuts on the rich. I just called Coburn's office - asked the person there how many rich people went to the hospital because their taxes were too high. I really went off on them. Sure it didn't change any minds but why should only Democrats have to face an Enraged Public?

Coburn's Washington office - 202-224-5754

Posted by: JoyceH on September 17, 2010 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

"Given that Americans like eating food, and don't like getting sick"

Don't tell me what I like and don't like you effete liberal snob!

Posted by: king buzzo on September 17, 2010 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

perhaps coburn beleives that if tainted food kills enough people, the invisible hand of the market will put the offending company out of business from lack of customers.

Posted by: mellowjohn on September 17, 2010 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

You know, this means that three out of the four horsemen are riding with the GOP at this point.

War (obvious), Pestilence (this post) and Famine (disenfranchising the middle class).

I wonder how *that* would work for spin?

Posted by: Malovich on September 17, 2010 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

EVERY Democratic campaign speech should have at least one highlight such as this to bolster WHY it is so important to retain control of the House and Senate. Two years lost through deadlock caused by Republican obstructionism is nothing to welcome, but it's a much better option than Republican majorities would be.
Pitiful that it might come to that...

Posted by: Doug on September 17, 2010 at 7:59 PM | PERMALINK



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