House GOP scuttles nutrition bill at center of first lady's anti-obesity drive

House Republicans on Wednesday scuttled a Democratic bid to pass a child nutrition bill that’s at the center of first lady Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity agenda.

The $4.5 billion legislation, which has already been approved unanimously by the Senate, expands eligibility and funding for school lunch programs. Democrats had expected it to pass on Wednesday and be sent to President Obama for his signature, but Republicans used their last chance to amend the bill to offer a motion that would require criminal background checks for childcare workers and would have removed the federal mandate for paid meals in schools.

When Democrats saw that the poison-pill amendment was headed for passage, they pulled the bill off the floor, a Democratic aide said. 

"I am disappointed Republicans chose to play politics with a bill that enjoys strong bipartisan support and would increase access to school meal programs, improve the standards of food provided, and help reduce childhood obesity,” Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said. “The real purpose of this motion to recommit was to delay this bipartisan bill from being signed into law.”

Hoyer said Democrats would pass the background check provision as a stand-alone bill and then try again on the child nutrition legislation on Thursday.

Republicans, who have complained about a lack of open debate on legislation, have repeatedly torpedoed non-controversial legislation using the motion to recommit, which is the minority party’s final opportunity to amend a bill or send it back to committee. Earlier this year they used an anti-pornography measure to defeat a science-funding bill, which Democrats later successfully passed.


Democrats have accused the GOP of playing political games with serious policy issues — it remains to be seen whether House Democrats will use the same tactics to scuttle GOP legislation when the parties’ roles are reversed next year.

Before the vote, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) hailed the anti-obesity legislation as a “moral issue” and a measure that would help U.S. competitiveness and military readiness. She cited statistics showing that more than one-quarter of young Americans are unable to serve in the military because they are overweight.