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Kline Statement: Full Committee Markup of H.R. 5504, the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act

Healthy breakfasts, school lunches, dietary education, and nutritional assistance are all worthy investments in our effort to combat child hunger and improve the health and wellness of low-income families. 

Congress has a responsibility to extend these programs this year, before critical services are delayed or even denied to millions of needy children and families. To that end, Republicans are ready to update and strengthen nutritional programs in a fiscally responsible way to ensure every child and family who depend on them get the support they need.

However, the bill before us today takes a wholly different approach, one that leads to a costly expansion of the federal government at a time the country can least afford it.  The Democrats’ proposal will add to our already unsustainable national debt and grow the size of government. The cost of this legislation cannot be ignored; the question of how we pay the bill must be a part of our debate today. 

Families and small businesses across the country are making tough decisions to weather this economy. They deserve a federal government that does the same. At a time of record deficits, it is unacceptable to pile even more government spending onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. In doing so, we cause long-term harm to the very children we aim to help.

As I noted two weeks ago, the nation’s top military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, has described our debt crisis as the greatest national security threat we face. Make no mistake, if Congress passes this legislation, as it stands today, we expect spending that will add roughly $7 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years.

This new spending is in addition to approximately $20 billion taxpayers already spend each year on child nutrition programs, not to mention the more than $18 billion Democrats have allocated for similar programs since January of last year.

Included in the chairman’s proposal is the creation or expansion of 24 government programs; a “green cafeteria” pilot program to purchase specialized appliances or federally fund a compost pile; as well as greater federal control over “local” wellness policies best left to state and local leaders.

Today, I and my Republican colleagues will offer our alternative plan to reauthorize child nutrition assistance. The Republican alternative will continue to provide nutritional assistance to more than 40 million children and two million expectant and new mothers, continue to deliver nutritious school lunches, breakfasts as well as meals and snacks outside school for vulnerable students, and will do so without adding one penny to the nation’s debt.

Taxpayers from across the country are demanding Washington get spending and debt under control now. The Republican alternative provides this committee and the American people an opportunity to pass responsible child nutrition reforms that improve access, enhance nutritional quality, and strengthen the integrity of these programs without further bankrupting our country. That is what our children need and that is what the American people are demanding from their elected leaders.

Rather than spending billions we do not have to add layers of new programs and mandates, I hope we take the opportunity today to work together on fiscally responsible solutions to extend and improve child nutrition assistance. 


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