In the first nice, decent thing the Republicans have done in living memory, they passed the Food Safety Bill even though they could have used an administrative error to kill it. All spending bills must originate in the House. We abide by this Constitutional requirement not by honoring its intent but by finding a way to make it technically true. So, for example, congressional leaders will take a House bill that isn’t going anywhere and then pass an amendment to delete everything in that bill and replace it with the content of some Senate bill. Now they have a bill that “originated in the House.” Congress passes it and we’re good. But some moron forgot that Senate-originated spending bills are like hermit crabs, and no one hollowed out a home for the Food Safety Bill.

Even though it passed in both houses of Congress, it was an invalid bill. So, the Dems attached a new version of the bill to the Omnibus Appropriations bill, but that was killed by threat of filibuster. So, it looked like we were going to lose a bill on food safety because of a combination of banal incompetence and relentless Republican exploitation of any and all weaknesses.

But then the Grinch’s heart grew ten-fold or something.

The Senate unexpectedly approved food safety legislation by voice vote Sunday evening, rescuing a bill that floated in limbo for weeks because of a clerical error…

…Democrats first attempted to attach the food safety bill to the two-and-a-half-month spending measure but Republicans balked because they wanted to keep that measure clean, according to Senate aides.

Republicans, however, later agreed to pass it by voice vote…

…The swift approval by unanimous consent caught some aides and lobbyists working on it by surprise. Sen. Tom Coburn, the outspoken conservative Republican from Oklahoma, had been blocking the legislation. He lifted his objection at the final moment.

I guess someone on their side figured out that exploiting a clerical error to kill a food safety bill was not going to poll too well. Still, I’m surprised the Republicans relented. It’s the first sign of weakness I’ve seen from them in a long, long time. But it was also the right thing to do.

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