This was a vote on the resolution or “rule” setting the terms of debate for H.R. 2749, which was designed to improve the monitoring for safety of both domestic and imported food. The rule did not permit any amendments to be offered to the bill.
Among the provisions in H.R. 2749, as described by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, was a requirement that every food facility implement a food safety plan; that the Department of Health and Human Services issue rules to minimize the hazards from food-born contaminants which are based on actual testing and observations, establish standards for raw agricultural commodities using results from previous inspections, examine facilities based on a schedule that uses historical statistics to determine the likelihood of contamination, create a program for accreditation of laboratories that perform tests of food for import or export, and also create a group dedicated to inspections of foreign food facilities. The bill also imposed new protections for “whistleblowers”, or industry or department insiders who report improper behavior.
Rep. Slaughter (D-NY), who was leading the support for the rule, noted that “every year 76 million Americans are sickened from consuming contaminated food, and 5,000 of those persons die.” She then said these deaths “come about because of flaws in our food safety system. I am happy to say that these gaps in protection are closed by this legislation.” Slaughter claimed that the bill “provides strong, flexible enforcement tools . . . (requires) food facilities to have safety plans in place to identify and mitigate hazards, one of the best ways to make an immediate improvement to food safety . . . (and will) fundamentally change the way we protect the safety of our food supply.”
Slaughter noted that the legislation was endorsed by Consumers Union, the Consumer Federation of America, the American Public Health Association and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a large industry association. She did acknowledge that it was not supported by a number of farm organizations.
The Republican minority had been complaining for a number of months about a series of rules the Democratic majority had been passing, such as the one for this bill, which restricted the amendments that could be offered. They argued that the limitations prevented Members from adequately representing their constituents. Rep. Foxx (R-NC), who was leading the opposition to the rule, repeated that argument. Foxx noted that House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) had promised that this “would be the most open and honest Congress in history, (and she) has gone back on her word by making this the most closed and restrictive Congress in history.”Foxx claimed that “Pelosi's justification (is) that ‘we won the election; so we decide.’''
Foxx also noted that “House Majority Leader Hoyer stated this past February his agreement with restoring the House to the regular order process of legislating . . . Regular order gives to everybody the opportunity to participate in the process . . . then why are we faced with another closed rule today? . . It does an injustice to both Democrats and Republicans who want to have the opportunity to offer amendments and participate in debate with their colleagues . . . . “
The resolution governing debate on the food safety bill passed by a vote of 249-180. Two hundred and forty-three Democrats and six Republicans voted “aye”. One hundred and seventy Republicans and ten Democrats voted “nay”. As a result, the House was able to begin to debate the bill designed to improve the monitoring of both domestic and imported food.