In what amounts to an epic constitutionality #fail, Senate Democrats may have blown their chances to see their food safety bill signed into law.
The U.S. constitution requires that any revenue-raising bill must originate in the House of Representatives. To honor this provision, the Senate often finds a discarded old House bill, strips it bare, and uses it as a “shell” and passes it back to the House.
They somehow forgot to do that this time.
Now House and Senate Democratic leaders are scrambling to figure out some procedural hocus-pocus that will allow them each to pass identical pieces of legislation before they leave for the holidays.
At his press conference this morning, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer could barely contain his frustration.
“Unfortunately, [the Senate] passed a bill which is not consistent with the Constitution of the United States, so we are going to have to figure out how to do that consistent with the constitutional requirement that revenue bills start in the House,” Hoyer said.
According to Hoyer, this has happened multiple times this Congress, causing severe legislative angina.
“The Senate knows the rule and should follow the rule and they should be cognizant of the rule,” Hoyer scolded. “Nobody ought to be surprised by the rule. It is in the Constitution, and you have all been lectured and we have as well about reading the Constitution.”
Hoyer wants the Senate to basically hold a revote on the exact same legislation. There’s just one problem. According to Roll Call, which originally broke the story, the bill’s chief opponent, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) would object to a clean, 15-minute mulligan, forcing Democrats (and the many Republicans who support it) to wade through days of procedural delays before that revote could happen. Given the crowded schedule and overwhelming gridlock, there’s no time for that.
So the legislation is in limbo for now. The House could still potentially pull some tricks and get the bill passed, over loud objections from Republicans. But it’s also possible that Congress will drop it altogether and start from scratch next year.
For another seemingly trivial, but potentially catastrophic oversights, see here.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.