House Slashes Spending for Food Safety, Nutrition Programs

Jun 17, 2011 2:56pm

ABC News’ John R. Parkinson (@JRPabcDC) reports:

House Republicans narrowly passed a bill that makes significant cuts across the Department of Agriculture and related agencies that is being chided by Democrats for making steep cuts to food safety and child nutrition programs.

The measure narrowly passed on a vote of 217-203 Thursday, with 19 Republicans joining all House Democrats voting against the legislation, which makes a 21 percent cut to the FDA’s budget totaling $572 million below the president’s request — including $285 million or 12 percent just this year. 

Democrats, including Rep. John Dingell – the Dean of the House – slammed Republicans for voting for the bill, charging that these deep cuts are “indefensible” and will severely undermine food safety efforts and increase the risk of food-borne illnesses.

“At a time when 30 people have been grossly sickened and died in Germany and 3,000 have been sickened, we are cutting Food and Drug's enforcement budget,” Dingell, D-Mich., said on the floor Wednesday. “Every year in the United States, 3,000 Americans are killed with bad food, 128,000 are hospitalized, 48 million are made sick. We have imported food that is causing all manner of difficulty: bad peanuts with salmonella, bad mushrooms, E. coli in peppers, melamine in dairy products, salmonella in eggs, bad shellfish and fish from China.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that the bill also makes “foolish cuts” to nutrition programs for some of the most vulnerable Americans, including women, infants and children, or WIC, by about 10 percent – slashing $650 million from the program, decreasing funding levels from $6.73 billion this year to $6.05 billion.

“Usually, parents are saying to children, eat your vegetables, eat your dinner.  Congress was saying to them, we are not going to provide food to our children, one in five of whom live in poverty in our country, many of whom go to sleep hungry,” Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters at a news conference leading into the vote. “That you would cut feeding children as a way to reduce the deficit while you give tax cuts to Big Oil, corporations sending jobs overseas, and the wealthiest people in America I think makes the case of misplaced priorities in our budget.”

This is all about values, and that is where we will try to find our common ground with our colleagues,” she added. “If we agree that we must invest in our children, their health, and education; if we agree that we must respect our seniors and their retirement; if we agree that we must create jobs and make investments and budget decisions that do not deter the growth of our economy but encourage it; if we agree that that is the way we must reduce the deficit; then we should be able to come to find common ground down here.” 

In total, the legislation approves $125.5 billion in both discretionary and mandatory funding, a reduction of more than $7 billion from the president’s FY2012 request. The bill reduces discretionary spending by $2.7 billion from last year’s level – a cut of more than $5 billion from the President’s request.

The legislation now heads to the Senate, where sources say it is unlikely to pass in its current form.

“This bill answers the call from Americans to reduce government spending while still providing for critical programs that keep American agriculture competitive in a global economy. The funding in this bill will help our rural communities to thrive, provide daily nutrition to children and families across the country, and keep our food and drug supply safe,” House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said in a statement. “This legislation will also help to put the Department of Agriculture, the FDA, and other agencies back on a sustainable budget path that is accountable to the taxpayers of this country.”

Rep. Jack Kingston, the Agriculture subcommittee chairman, also praised the passage of the bill, noting that “as the Congress continues the battle to lower spending, cut waste and create jobs” lawmakers made tough votes in order to get the country on a fiscally sustainable path.

“This bill represents a reduction of 13.4 percent in discretionary funding and makes the tough choices necessary to reduce spending while keeping our bill’s basic missions of food production, food and drug safety, rural development and nutrition programs intact,” Kingston, R-Ga., said. “The legislation also provides for a review of bureaucratic, job-killing regulations and language to promote the competitiveness and vitality of American agriculture. And, where possible, the Committee has worked with the Agriculture Committee to identify and initiate major reforms for the upcoming Farm Bill.”

Reps. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul – two candidates seeking the Republican nomination for president, voted against the bill.

The full list of the 19 Republicans voting against passage of the bill were:

Justin Amash (Michigan)
Michele Bachman (Minnesota)
Joe Barton (Texas)
Paul Broun (Georgia)
Michael Burgess (Texas)
John Campbell (California)
John Duncan (Tennessee)
Stephen Fincher (Tennessee)
Jeff Flake (Arizona)
Trent Franks (Arizona)
Morgan Griffith (Virginia)
Walter Jones (North Carolina)
Steve King (Iowa)
Tom McClintock (California)
Jeff Miller (Florida)
Kristi Noem (South Dakota)
Ron Paul (Texas)
Dana Rohrabacher (California)
Dave Schweikert (Arizona)

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