This was a procedural vote on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and prohibiting amendments to legislation expanding eligibility for subsidized school lunches for low-income children, and implementing stricter nutritional standards for food served in schools.
If passed, this particular procedural motion -- known as the “previous question" -- effectively ends debate and brings the pending legislation to an immediate vote.
Under the bill, foster children would become automatically eligible for the school lunch program (in which students are provided with a free lunch subsidized by the federal government). In order to streamline the process of enrolling children in the school lunch program, the measure reduced the amount of paperwork required to sign up for free meals. The bill also established a grant program to increase participation among schools in the national school breakfast program.
The bill directed the Agriculture Department to establish nutritional standards for all food sold in schools – including products in vending machines. The measure also implemented an organic food pilot program (to serve organic food in public schools).
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) urged support for the resolution and the underlying bill: “Some of my friends on the other side will say that they want no children in our country to go hungry….Here's their opportunity to demonstrate that their concern for the hungry in this country is more than just lip service….I understand the politics here. It's pretty simple. If the President's for it, my Republican friends are against it. But I would ask them and I would plead with them to check those politics at the door just this once. Please don't sacrifice an opportunity to improve the lives of millions of our children on the altar of partisan politics. The need to act is clear. Our moral obligation is clear. Our children are getting sicker and sicker and sicker. If kids don't have enough nutritious food to eat they don't learn.”
Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL) urged opposition to the resolution and the underlying bill: “I think that all of us in this House, certainly an overwhelming majority of the membership of the House, would support--I certainly do--the continuation and reauthorization of reduced and free school food programs. The bill before us unfortunately does not improve upon the current situation in that regard. In fact, the bipartisan National Governors Association has outlined several problems that they have with this underlying legislation, and I was reading some hours ago their objections. Governors Ritter of Colorado and Rell of Connecticut highlighted new certification and monitoring mandates that will be forced on states by this legislation in order for the states to be able to continue their important participation in these programs.” (The provisions to which Diaz-Balart refers require states to certify that their public schools are in compliance with the bill’s nutritional requirements.)
The House agreed the previous question motion by a vote of 232-180. 232 Democrats voted “yea.” All 169 Republicans present and 11 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House proceeded to a final vote on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and prohibiting amendments to legislation expanding eligibility for subsidized school lunches for low-income children, and implementing stricter nutritional standards for food served in schools.