House passes bill to roll back menu labeling rule

The House passed legislation on Friday to weaken an Obama administration regulation to require nutrition information on restaurant menus.

Thirty-three Democrats joined with all but one Republican to support the measure in the 266-144 vote. Libertarian Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) was the only Republican to vote "no," while Rep. John YarmuthJohn YarmuthDem lawmakers: Clinton should have disclosed illness sooner House Dems to GOP on gun reprimands: 'Bring it on' Overnight Regulation: Obama unveils new Arctic drilling rules | GOP pushes regulatory budget MORE (D-Ky.) voted “present.”

The Obama administration said it opposes the bill rolling back the regulation, but stopped short of a veto threat this week. 

“If enacted, it would reduce consumers' access to nutrition information and likely create consumer confusion by introducing a great deal of variability into how calories are declared,” the White House said in a statement of administration policy.

The vote represents yet another fight over ObamaCare.

The menu labeling requirements stem from a controversial provision of the 2010 healthcare law that has upset both Republicans and Democrats. A bipartisan effort is underway to roll back the rules.

The legislation passed on Friday would weaken the menu labeling requirements, but it would not kill them.

Restaurants would have more discretion to inform customers about the number of calories in the food they sell by posting the information online or in a smartphone app, as opposed to printing them out on menu boards inside their stores.

The legislation will not, however, exempt grocery stores, convenience stores or gas stations. A previous version sought to apply the rules only to restaurants, but was rejected by Democrats.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) faced blowback from both sides of the aisle when it released the menu labeling requirements in November 2014.

Lawmakers said the rule would be too expensive for restaurants and grocery stores in their home districts to comply with.

“[P]rudent, effective labeling standards don’t come in the form of one-size-fits-all rule set forth by unelected bureaucrats,” said House GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersRNC chair, GOP lawmakers unleash on Trump over leaked audio Help individuals with disabilities achieve the American Dream with the ABLE to Work Act McCarthy suggests GOP could gain House seats in election MORE (R-Wash.), the bill's author.

Most Democrats opposed the measure, warning it would compromise the amount of nutrition information available to consumers.

"Far from common sense, this unnecessary legislation would deny consumers critical information about the food that we eat," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

The bill does have some Democratic support. Dozens of senators, including Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderObama meets a crossroads for his healthcare law Music streamer Spotify joins Gillibrand’s push for paid family leave GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatty MurrayWhat the 'Bernie Sanders wing of the GOP' can teach Congress Senate Dems demand answers from Wells Fargo over treatment of military A fight for new rights MORE (D-Wash.), pressed the FDA for more time in a letter sent last year.

The FDA eventually agreed to delay the menu labeling requirements, but the legislation would extend that delay further until two years after the bill is passed. This would give a Republican president the chance to kill the rules altogether, if the GOP takes back the White House.

Before final passage, the House adopted an amendment from McMorris Rodgers to clarify that businesses wouldn’t face penalties for accidental human error while preparing food or varying ingredients. 

“Mistakes and variations are inevitable,” McMorris Rodgers said.

This story was corrected at 1:40 P.M.