Many were surprised when at the end of the 111th Congress, the Food Safety Modernization Act was passed and in early January, President Obama signed it into law. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg was a key proponent of the bill, and it enjoyed not only bipartisan support, but the endorsement of many who work for greater consumer protections as well as the food industry itself. The bill passed the Senate 75-23, with a lot of Republican support.
The new law gives the FDA increased authority over food recalls and allows the agency to require safety plans by food producers as well as heightens the bar for the safety of the importation of foods from foreign countries. The price tag to implement the new bill is to the tune of $1.4 billion over a five year period.
Following the signing of the bill into law, however, there were many reports in the media noting that while the Democratic 111th Congress passed the bill, the Republican 112th Congress might be reluctant to fund it.
Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA) is the new incoming chair of the Agriculture subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee with jurisdiction over FDA, among other things. On the second day of the new 112th Congress as he was settling into his new digs on the Hill, he took time to talk with me about the bill. I began by asking him what he liked about it, what he didn’t like about it and about its prospects for funding. Mainly I was curious to discover if, in fact, after passage and bipartisan support, the new Congress was going to be effecting a veto by the purse, or whether or not there was wiggle room in the rhetoric.
At the end of our conversation about the Food Safety Modernization Act, I also asked the Congressman about the appropriations process in the new Congress. Specifically, I asked him what philisophical change accompanies the Republican takeover of the Appropriations process and what advice did he have for a stakeholder who has a case to make in the 112th Congress instead of the 111th.
I want to thank both Congressman Kingston and his staff for taking time with me to discuss this important issue.