House Votes on Child Nutrition Today

by Katrina Trinko

The Child Nutrition Act, which passed the Senate unanimously in August, is now facing Republican opposition in the House. Rep. John Kline (R., Minn.), the top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, offered an amendment to the bill yesterday which would have required that only institutions who hired workers that had passed a background check showing that they were not registered sex offenders would be eligible for funding.

Democrats, unwilling to pass the amendment because doing so would send the bill back to the Senate, decided to hold a separate vote on the background check today. While it’s expected to pass, a House aide cautions that with the Senate so pressed for time, the Child Nutrition Act, which also be voted on today, could be signed into law while the background check legislation remains stalled in the Senate.

The legislation, which has been pushed by Michelle Obama as a key component for combating child obesity, would give schools $4.5 billion over ten years. It would increase the number of children eligible for school meals, and give schools additional funding to help them buy healthier food that would meet the new nutritional standards set by the bill. It would also set strict rules on what foods could and could not be sold on school premises, which would apply even to foods sold in fundraisers.

When the Senate passed the legislation, $2.2 billion in funding for the bill was slated to come from cuts to the food stamp program. But President Obama has now promised that he will restore those cuts.

House Republicans have also expressed concerns about the bill’s cost and new regulations. “Members of the U.S. House of Representatives — Republicans and Democrats alike — have been completely shut out of the legislative process of extending and improving child nutrition programs,” said Kline in a statement. “This legislation, which dramatically increases federal spending and food mandates, has not received a single House committee hearing or vote. And today, it was brought to the House floor without any opportunity for members to offer and debate amendments.”

Kline also argued against the program’s provisions, saying on the floor yesterday that the Act “creates or expands 17 separate federal programs,”  and “imposes a tax on the middle class by empowering the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to require schools to increase the price they charge families for school meals.”

In a call with reporters on Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said passing the legislation was important for “our national security … our moral responsibility to our children,” according to ABC News.

National Review editorialized against the Child Nutrition Act in October.

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