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Kline Statement: Consideration of S. 3307, the Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act

The American people have spoken, and they continue to speak loud and clear. I’ve been listening, and I know what I have been hearing in the second district of Minnesota is being repeated from coast to coast.

“Stop growing government,” the people are telling us. “Stop spending money we do not have.”

It is a simple request, and a sensible one. Yet it continues to be ignored.

Today’s vote will be among our final acts as we move through the few remaining days of the 111th Congress. As we cast those votes, we have a choice to make. Will we continue spending more and increasing the role of government in Americans’ lives? Or will we listen to the people and begin to step on the brakes.

Each of us must make that choice as we cast our votes on the bill before us.

Everyone recognizes the importance of extending child nutrition programs. But extending these programs does not mean expanding them.

We could extend these programs and improve them with no added cost to taxpayers. We could listen to our constituents and do right by our children. In fact, my Republican colleagues and I tried to do precisely that. But the Democrats in the Rules Committee denied us the opportunity to offer such an option on the floor today.

Instead, this bill spends another $4.5 billion on various programs and initiatives and creates or expands 17 separate federal programs.

It imposes a tax on the middle class by empowering the U.S. secretary of agriculture to require schools to increase the price they charge families for school meals.

This is a dangerous foray into federal price controls, and it’s one of many concerns outlined by the National Governors Association and leading school groups.

In fact, the school leaders who would be responsible for implementing these new requirements have urged us to vote “no” on S. 3307 because of its higher costs for local districts and its rigid mandates.

Earlier this month, the American Association of School Administrators, the Council of the Great City Schools, and the National School Boards Association told us – and I’m quoting – “All of the national organizations representing the nation’s public school districts do not support the Senate version of the Child Nutrition reauthorization bill (S. 3307) pending before the House.”

This is a strong statement that should leave every member questioning the wisdom of imposing these added costs and mandates on our school systems.

In fact, the cost of this proposal has been a sticking point throughout the process. The majority claims this bill is “paid for.” They want us to believe we can grow government with no cost or consequences. But the American people know that is just not true.

More spending is more spending, whether or not those dollars are offset elsewhere in the massive federal budget. But one offset in this bill is particularly questionable.

The truth is, at least some portion of the billions in new program costs is deficit spending. This money was borrowed from our children and grandchildren in 2009 when it was put in the stimulus; that borrowed money is simply being redirected today.

This bill – with its so-called “pay for” – is merely a stalling tactic. It obscures government expansion in the short-term so this bill can become law and its spending can become permanent. So here we stand, playing a shell game with the federal budget and hoping the American people do not notice that government continues to grow, spending continues to expand, and our children continue to fall deeper and deeper into debt.

I support extending and improving child nutrition programs. I believe we can do so in a bipartisan way. But that opportunity is lost with this bill, and so I must oppose it.

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