Congress adjourned late Wednesday night but not before passing a Continuing Resolution to provide funding through December 3 for federal government operations in the new fiscal year, which began today. Other items, however, remain unfinished as legislators return home for mid-term elections.
Rejecting a vigorous White House push to act, the House of Representatives did not consider Child Nutrition Reauthorization legislation. In the Senate, comprehensive food safety legislation was blocked by the objections of Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), even though the bill enjoyed bipartisan and business-community support, including that of IDFA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Congress will return for a lame-duck session in mid-November, when both issues are likely to be considered.
The child nutrition bill, S. 3307, "The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act," was championed by Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), the chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and passed the Senate in August. A companion bill, H.R. 5504, had been reported out of the House Education and Labor Committee earlier this year. With but a few days before Congress was set to leave, the Obama administration requested that the House accept the Senate bill to complete action on the topic. But differences between the two bills prevented House leadership from finding enough votes to pass the Senate version.
It is uncertain whether the House will continue the effort to pass the Senate bill or instead act on its own version, "The Improving Nutrition for America's Children Act" introduced by Representative George Miller (D-CA), when Congress returns after the elections. IDFA supported passage of S. 3307 in a joint letter with the National Milk Producers Federation.
Food Safety Scheduled for November 17
Although comprehensive food safety legislation passed the House last year, a companion bill, S. 510, has stalled in the Senate, even though it is likely supported by a super-majority of senators. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) attempted to reach an agreement to limit amendments and the amount of time the Senate would take to consider the legislation, but Coburn objected. Before the Senate adjourned on Wednesday, Reid scheduled a cloture vote to consider the food safety bill on November 17. Supporters of the bill will need to reach 60 votes in order to limit debate and pass the bill yet this year.
"IDFA has worked closely with the Senate on the food safety legislation, and together with the National Milk Producers Federation we support its passage," said Ruth Saunders, IDFA vice president for policy and legislative affairs.
This legislation is widely supported by a broad range of food industry and consumers groups.
Both the Senate and House will resume session on November 15. It is likely that they will recess for the week of November 22 for Thanksgiving and then return to session the week of November 29. No specific agenda has been announced for the post-election session.