Food Safety

Papaya outbreak highlights FDA’s food safety challenge
‘Inability to track and trace foods with speed or precision’ is agency’s ‘Achilles’ heel’

Salmonella infections caused by contaminated papayas highlight the challenges Food and Drug Administration officials face in fighting foodborne illness. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Salmonella infections caused by contaminated papayas highlight the challenges federal officials face in fighting foodborne illness, as a law from nearly a decade ago meant to modernize the food safety system is starting to show its age. 

The Food and Drug Administration is trying to bring its efforts to track and prevent outbreaks in line with the technology now at its disposal. But because spending for next year is uncertain, Congress could make it difficult for the agency.

Budget plan tries to create new fees, revive rejected ones

Copies of President Donald Trump’s budget for Fiscal Year 2020 run through the binding process at the Government Publishing Office in Washington. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Trump administration is proposing to raise about $60 billion over 10 years through new and expanded fees, including repeat proposals for eight fees rejected by appropriators last year.

The biggest of the bunch, by far, is a plan to raise $31.7 billion over 10 years by boosting the fees housing finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac charge to guarantee the mortgage market. The duo has been under federal conservatorship since 2008, when they required $187 billion in bailout funds to stay afloat.

Will FDA keep cracking down on teen vaping, other initiatives, after Gottlieb leaves?
Scott Gottlieb, fought teen vaping and approved record numbers of generic drugs will resign next month

The outside of the Food and Drug Administration headquarters is seen in White Oak, Md.(Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who launched a campaign against teen vaping and approved a record number of generic drugs, is resigning next month.

The departure raises questions about whether the agency would continue to vigorously seek to curb the exploding use of e-cigarettes among young people, among other Gottlieb initiatives. But the commissioner, in a resignation letter listing accomplishments on this and other issues, said he was “confident that the FDA will continue to advance all these efforts.”

Democrats propose legal status for undocumented immigrant farmworkers
Legislation would protect workers from deportation, ease labor shortages, proponents say

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., says the legislation “would ensure that hardworking immigrants don’t live in fear and that California’s agriculture industry has the workforce it needs to succeed.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Two California Democrats filed legislation Thursday that would give undocumented immigrant farmworkers and their families a path to legal resident status and possibly U.S. citizenship.

The legislation by Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Zoe Lofgren is designed to ease agricultural worker shortages and protect undocumented workers already in the United States from deportation. The bills come as the nation grapples with an extended partial government shutdown fueled by an impasse between President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats over funding for a border wall and broader differences over immigration policies.

US relies on old rules to police cryptoassets
Europe appears to be on different fintech track

Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., who is part of the Congressional Blockchain Caucus, has called on the U.S. government to lightly regulate the emerging technology. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Despite calls for international unity on financial regulations following the 2008 financial crisis, the United States is unlikely to follow Europe in exploring a unique regulatory regime for “cryptoassets,” whether for payment models like bitcoin or utility tokens that have been touted by celebrities as can’t-miss investments.

The U.S. approach, which has been reaffirmed several times by regulators, is to apply standard rules and tests dating back to the 1930s to fintech, or financial technology, products when determining whether agencies have authority over them.

Shutdown Effects: Breakdown by Department and Agency
Thousands of federal employees will be working without a paycheck

The Federal Reserve building is seen on Constitution Avenue address on Saturday, the first day of a partial government shutdown. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Thousands of federal employees face the prospect of working without a paycheck as the White House budget office Friday night directed the heads of government departments and agencies to begin implementing shutdown plans.

Funding for nine departments and other agencies lapsed at midnight as President Donald Trump remained in a standoff with Congress, his demand for funding for wall construction along the border with Mexico the sticking point in talks over appropriations and a stopgap funding measure.

In Appropriations Endgame, All Roads Lead to Border Wall
Dec. 7 funding deadline fast approaching

Border Patrol vehicles stand guard along the United States-Mexico border fence in on Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014. The fence runs through the cities of Calexico, Calif., and Mexicali on the Mexico side. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sooner or later, President Donald Trump will have to confront the political reality that Congress is extremely unlikely to provide the $5 billion he wants to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

That realization has to occur in less than a month, with the House and Senate both in session for only 12 legislative days before the current stopgap funding measure expires Dec. 7.

HHS At Odds With Its Workers, Including Doctors
Employees plan to picket at HHS headquarters

A labor spat at the Department of Health and Human Services is drawing attention from lawmakers. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Health and Human Services Department is in a dispute with a union representing 14,000 employees, which risks exacerbating staff shortages among doctors and scientists involved in prescription drug reviews, food safety and other public health responses.

The labor spat is drawing attention from lawmakers as some employees plan to picket at HHS headquarters briefly Thursday afternoon.

Farm Bill Ties Food Stamps to Work, Adjusts Farm Aid
Democrats worry work mandate is designed to push people out of program

House Agriculture Chairman K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, at podium, introduces the farm bill at a news conference on Thursday. Flanking him, from left, Reps. Neal Dunn, R-Fla., James R. Comer, R-Ky., Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., Roger Marshall, R-Kan., Ralph Abraham, R-La., Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, and Rick W. Allen, R-Ga. (Ellyn Ferguson/CQ Roll Call)

The House Agriculture Committee released its 2018 farm bill Thursday with proposals to reshape the nation’s largest domestic food aid program, consolidate conservation efforts and tweak farm aid.

The bill arrives amid controversy over its focus on shifting funding within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, into work and training programs.