Standing alongside key lawmakers, child nutrition advocates, and elementary students dressed as grapes, apples, carrots, and bananas, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) yesterday urged the Senate to pass the pending child nutrition reauthorization bill.
With time running out before August recess, Sen. Lincoln has turned up the heat on Senate leaders to get the bill moving. In recent days Lincoln has taken to the Senate floor twice, staged a press conference, and appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe to bolster support for the bill.
In a packed press event yesterday afternoon, Sens. Dick Lugar (R-IN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Bob Casey (D-PA) joined Lincoln in calling on Senate leadership to get the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act to the floor for a vote as soon as possible.
“The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act will change the face of childhood hunger and obesity in this country and it’s time for us to take those steps,” said Lincoln, citing alarming childhood obesity and hunger statistics from her home state of Arkansas.
Lincoln also emphasized the historic nature of the reimbursement rate increase–the first in over three decades.
“I don’t know if that affects you all the way it does me, but it makes me horrified,” she said. “To think that since 1973 we on the federal level have not increased the reimbursement… I gotta tell you, having been to the grocery store just yesterday, if we were paying today’s prices with 1973 dollars, all of us, what would we be making available in our own homes?”
Lincoln was also quick point out that the Senate bill is deficit-neutral. “The critical investments this bill makes are completely paid for and will not add one cent to the national debt,” she said. “For those who are concerned, who join me in being concerned about the debt in this country and what it leaves our children, this does not affect that.”
“We have just 21 legislative days left before the current child nutrition program expires on September 30,” said Lincoln. “If we miss this opportunity, ladies and gentlemen, it will be our children who pay the price for our inaction. We will have no excuse and no one to blame but ourselves.”
“This bill is bipartisan, completely paid for, and provides common sense solutions to addressing childhood hunger and obesity,” added Lincoln. “We simply just need a few hours [on the Senate floor] to get it passed.”
Lincoln told reporters yesterday that the bill has been hotlined, a practice meant to streamline noncontroversial bills. “We should know by the end of business today whether there are any objections,” she said.
Though the timing remains highly uncertain, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said earlier this week he wants to bring the bill to the floor before August recess.