Leading House Tea Partier OK with pending health bills

The $4.5 billion childhood nutrition bill would expand eligibility for school meal programs, establish nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools and provide a 6-cent increase for each school lunch to help cafeterias serve healthier meals.

The Senate passed its version unanimously right before the August recess, and Democrats see the lame-duck session as their last, best chance to get it through the House before the new majority takes over in January. The bill got an extra boost last week when a diverse coalition of more than 1,100 groups announced their support and two liberals — Reps. James McGovern (Mass.) and Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) — got on board, despite reservations that the bill is half paid for by ending an expansion of the food stamp program five months early.

The Senate, meanwhile, is expected to take up food safety legislation this week. The bill was held up before the elections because Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) objected to passage by unanimous consent.

The House passed its version in July 2009 and a final bill could yet clear Congress this year if there's a speedy conference committee or if the House adopts whatever the Senate ends up passing.

—Elise Viebeck contributed.

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