Like many interested in food safety, I keep hoping to see S. 510 move to a vote on the Senate floor. Politico reports:

022410_Coburnpic_monster_397x224.jpgSenate Democrats say they are on the brink of passing a sweeping food safety overhaul the House approved more than a year ago — but Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is blocking a final push from the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to reach a consent agreement on the bill.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters Tuesday he believed the bipartisan legislation — which gained momentum over recess as thousands of Americans fell ill from more than half a billion contaminated eggs — could pass within the next 24 hours. But sources close to the situation say committee staffers are working to fashion an agreement acceptable to the Oklahoma Republican. …

The pending legislation would give much-needed updates to a food regulatory system that is nearly a century old, granting the Food and Drug Administration recall authority and also imposing stricter rules on mandatory inspections, trace-back protocol, access to company records and whistleblower protections — all of which are lacking in the current food safety law.

Here is Coburn’s beef:

Despite Reid’s optimistic 24-hour prediction, it’s unclear how Democrats will be able to strike a deal on a bill that Congressional Budget Office estimates will cost $1.4 billion over five years. The bill is not fully offset.

“If this was a priority for the majority, they would have already paid for it,” Coburn’s spokesman said.

Coburn has a point. Passing legislation without having the means to pay for it makes no sense at all.  Perhaps we can get Coburn and Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to co-sponsor a bill introduced by Leahy that would create a new criminal offense for any individual or corporation that knowingly distributes tainted food products. The bill also establishes fines and prison sentences of up to 10 years for those convicted of such a crime.