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 YarmuthCameras go dark during House Democrats' sit-in A case for the Yarmuth-Price resolution Subcommittee clears bill on cap for phone, internet subsidies 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.

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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 RodgersGOP campaign chief: Turn up the heat on Clinton GOP rep: Ryan's agenda to restore representative government Restoring the VA's promise to veterans 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 AlexanderBipartisan gun measure survives test vote Overnight Healthcare: GOP plan marks new phase in ObamaCare fight Stoddard: The great Trump rebellion MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatty MurraySenate Dems link court fight to Congressional Baseball Game Reid: House-passed Zika deal a 'disgrace' Bernie Sanders’s awkward return to the Senate 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.

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