Yes, if history is any lesson. They could do it by launching a “sneak attack.” And there are several versions of the “sneak attack” they could use.
TAKE ACTION: Ask these five powerful Senators not to use a “sneak attack” to pass a Senate version of the DARK Act. Please sign our petition, then call your Senator (phone numbers below).
Monsanto is pushing legislation, (we call it the DARK Act), which would guarantee there will never be GMO labels, safety testing of GMOs, protections for farmers from GMO contamination or regulations of pesticide-promoting GMO crops to protect human health, the environment or endangered pollinators.
The bill, H.R. 1599, was passed by the House on July 23 (2015). So far, no Senate version has been introduced, though we expect to see one soon.
But “soon” may not come soon enough for Monsanto and Big Food, who are desperate to preempt state and federal mandatory labeling of GMOs before Vermont’s GMO labeling law, Act 120, takes effect July 1, 2016.
So desperate, they may launch a sneak attack.
What’s a ‘Sneak Attack?’
Remember the Monsanto Protection Act of 2013? Monsanto slipped the bill, whose actual name was the Farmers Assurance Provision, into a last-minute, temporary funding bill (the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013) aimed at averting a government shutdown.
The bill slipped through and was signed into law, with no Senate hearing, no Senate debate.
Thankfully the provision, which would have allowed farmers to continue growing GMO crops even if a court blocked their use, generated such outrage that it was allowed to expire with the sixth-month funding bill.
But for six months, the Monsanto Protection Act guaranteed Monsanto immunity from federal court rulings blocking GMO crops. How did the Biotech Bully get away with it?
Jon Stewart explained it this way, in a skit he called “You Stuck What Where?”:
It turns out, members of Congress involved in writing a bill while the bill is in subcommittee, are allowed to add any provision they want, anonymously. No fingerprints. The laws of the most powerful nation are written with the same level of accountability as internet comments.
The same thing could happen with the DARK Act. Attaching H.R. 1599 to a Continuing Resolution bill is just one of several “sneak attack” tactics Monsanto could use to bypass a GMO labeling battle in the Senate before year’s end. For more on this, and other potential “sneak attack” maneuvers, read this.
Who Could Help Monsanto Launch a Sneak Attack?
We’ve identified five Senators we think are the most likely to help Monsanto launch a sneak attack:
• Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), author of the 2013 Monsanto Protection Act
• Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), who blocked repeal of the 2013 Monsanto Protection Act and could stick the DARK Act into a must-pass spending bill
• Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Agriculture Committee member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), DARK Act supporters who could attach it to the Child Nutrition Act
• Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has the power to allow the DARK Act to get a Senate vote as an amendment to another piece of legislation
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Monsanto’s main man in the Senate, played a big role in passing the 2013 Monsanto Protection Act. After the fact, Sen. Blunt took credit for the provision, saying he “worked with the company” to attach it as a rider to a Continuing Resolution necessary to fund the government.
Sen. Blunt likely has already hatched a plan for getting H.R. 1599 through Congress.
He could use the 2013 Monsanto Protection Act playbook and try to attach it as a rider to whatever appropriations legislation gets passed this year, in which case he would need help from Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Or, he could try another vehicle, a bill that must be reauthorized this year, like the Child Nutrition Act. In that case, he’d need the help of Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Missouri voters, please call Sen. Blunt at (202) 224-5721.
Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) is the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. If Monsanto wants to slip H.R. 1599 into must-pass government spending legislation, it will be Sen. Cochran who makes the call.
At a recent meeting with Sen. Cochran, we asked him what he would do if Sen. Blunt asked him to attach the DARK Act to an appropriations bill. He replied, with mock innocence, “I’d read it, first.”
The Senator who received nearly $1 million in contributions from agribusiness in 2013-2014, including from Monsanto, is unlikely to reveal his game-plan to us. But it’s clear he has no moral qualms with the idea of Monsanto using a sneak-attack strategy to push its legislative agenda.
In 2013, Sen. Cochran defended the first Monsanto Protection Act by blocking Sen. Jeff Merkley’s (D-Ore.) effort to repeal it through an amendment to the Farm Bill. Mississippi voters, please call Sen. Cochran at (202) 224-5054.
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) has already voiced his support for the DARK Act and preemption of state labeling initiatives.
The Senate version of the DARK Act is likely to be assigned to Senate Agriculture Committee. As chairman of this committee, Sen. Roberts has the power to decide whether to hold hearings, who to call as witnesses, and whether to bring the bill to a vote.
He could also launch a “You Stuck What Where?” sneak attack by attaching the DARK Act to another piece of legislation before his committee.
On September 17, Sen. Roberts will bring the Senate version of the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization bill to his committee for amendments, debate and vote.
If Sen. Roberts wanted to do a favor for his Big Ag donors who have given him $791.2k so far this election cycle, he could let Sen. Blunt slip the DARK Act right into his version of the Child Nutrition Act. There would be little anyone could do about that, unless they were willing to risk the future of the school lunch program past October 1, when the legislation expires.
If Monsanto can’t get Sen. Roberts to act alone, the other Senators on the Agriculture Committee could be enlisted in a team effort. With a two-person majority, the committee’s 11 Republicans could vote to attach the DARK Act to the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization without any Democrat’s support. Kansas voters, please call Sen. Roberts at 202-224-4774.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), one of the 11 Republicans who could vote to attach the DARK Act to the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization, might lead this charge. He’s an Ag Committee Republican who has already come out in support of the effort to preempt state labeling initiatives. Iowa voters, please call Sen. Grassley at (202) 224-3744.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hasn’t taken in $1.1M from agribusiness so far this election cycle for nothing. Monsanto and its allies know that the DARK Act could live or die depending on how important it is to Sen. McConnell.
As the Senate Majority Leader, Sen. McConnell controls which bills go to the floor and which amendments may be offered.
If the DARK Act doesn’t get attached to another piece of legislation by a committee chair or a vote in committee, it could be brought to the floor as stand-alone legislation. This rarely happens in the Senate, because it takes 60 votes (a bipartisan effort) to cut off debate and avoid a filibuster.
Amendments to legislation are different. It only takes 51 votes to pass an amendment—as long as the amendment is germane. (Non-germane amendments require 60 votes.) Of course, what’s “germane” is largely up to the Senate Majority Leader.
And, there’s also special legislation, known as “reconciliation.” Only 51 votes are needed to pass amendments to reconciliation bills.
The ability to wield these parliamentary tactics gives Sen. McConnell enormous power and will make him the top target of Monsanto’s lobbying machine. Kentucky voters, please call Sen. McConnell at (202) 224-2541.
TAKE ACTION: Please sign the petition to these five powerful Senators urging them not to use a sneak attack to pass the DARK Act
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