The school lunch bill leaped up from its hospital bed (it’s in critical condition, remember!) and did a little jig today.
What broke its fever? In a pig-flying moment of bipartisan comity, the Childhood Nutrition Act, aka the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act” passed the Senate by unanimous consent this afternoon.
Unanimous consent! As in no opposition. It’s enough to make you marvel at the obscure mysteries of the Senate as to why it took so long … or you could just chalk it up to routine Republican obstruction.
After a quick glance at First Lady Michelle Obama’s congratulatory message, however, the school lunch bill collapsed back into its bed and put the oxygen mask back on. For while the Senate did act, the House version remains stuck. The lower chamber is already on August recess (though they will be returning early to act on a jobs bill), and its version of the school lunch reform, while more generous than the Senate’s, still lacks a funding source. Assuming House leaders overcome that minor obstacle, they will still need to reconcile their version of the bill with the Senate’s. Only then can it be sent to President Obama’s desk for a final signature.
Advocates are desperately hoping that Congress finds a way to finish the bill before September 30 — the date that the current National School Lunch Program and similar funding expires. They fear that if Congress is forced to pass a so-called “continuing resolution,” which would maintain the program in its current (and deeply flawed) form, reform will lose out to other pressing issues on the legislative calendar. If that happens, who knows when Congress will pick the issue back up.
Still, given the current headlock Republicans have put on the legislative process in Washington, I suppose one would have to say that school lunch is gaining some momentum. No doubt, climate activists would love to be in school lunch reformers’ position at the moment — that is to say, on the brink of success.