This vote was on a motion to kill off an amendment that would have required dietary supplement manufacturers to register with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The motion dealt with an amendment offered by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) during consideration of legislation that would extend FDA programs. Sen. Durbin’s amendment would have required dietary supplement makers to provide the FDA with the name of their company, the name of their product, its ingredients, and a copy of its label. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) made a motion to “table” the amendment, which would set aside and effectively kill the proposal.
Sen. Durbin argued that his amendment would help the federal government keep track of a market that resembles “the Wild West.” Although there are more than 75,000 dietary supplements on the market, he said, oversight is virtually nonexistent. Sen. Durbin argued that his amendment would provide consumers at least a basic level of assurance that their dietary supplements are safe.
“The dietary supplement companies are not all based in the United States. Products are sitting on the shelf which you may not know come from other countries, including China,” Sen. Durbin said. “Is that too much to ask if you are going to sell the product in the United States, that they have to register with the FDA and tell us what the ingredients are? That seems pretty basic to me. I bet that 99 percent of the American people thought they already had to do that.”
Opponents of Sen. Durbin’s amendment argued that it would do little to protect consumers. They argued that the FDA already had tools at its disposal to oversee supplements, but that it lacked sufficient funding to do so. Unless the FDA obtained more funding, Sen. Durbin’s amendment would simply inundate the agency with information that it does not have the capacity to handle, they argued.
“(Sen. Durbin’s amendment) would, in fact, flood [the FDA] with information, and I think we would flood them with more information than they could possibly process,” Sen. Michael Enzi (R-WY) said. “What bothers me is how we get that information to the consumer. It is the consumer that needs to know what they are drinking, eating, and everything else. That is why we provide labeling on a lot of things. But even the things we already provide labeling on, the consumer doesn't necessarily pay attention to it. Probably the people who need to pay the most attention to it don't pay any attention to it. So just making this information available to the FDA doesn't get it to the point where the consumer can know.”
The motion to kill off Sen. Durbin’s amendment was passed by a vote of 77-20. Voting “yea” were 45 Republicans and 32 Democrats. Voting “nay” were 20 Democrats, including a majority of progressives. As a result, the Senate defeated the effort to require dietary supplement manufacturers to register with the Food and Drug Administration.