"It's this opportunity or we lose it," said Representative George Miller, a California Democrat and sponsor of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act (PDF), which was introduced in Congress in June of this year. "I'm afraid of this dying in the lame duck days of Congress."
Miller spoke yesterday to 1,300 listeners in a virtual town hall hosted by Feeding America and featuring Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Feeding America CEO Vicki Escarra, and Top Chef's Tom Colicchio. The forum reached out to thousands of party faithful in a last-ditch effort to save Miller's tenuous $4.5-billion bill, which promises more funding for school meal programs and improved nutritional standards. The town hall repeatedly encouraged listeners to call their representatives to push them to vote for the bill.
A version of the act passed the Senate months ago, but it has floundered in the House, and Miller predicted that the House is not likely to vote on it until after Thanksgiving. Vilsack pointed out the difficulty of trying to pass the bill quickly under suspension of the rules—a procedure used to pass uncontroversial bills which would require a difficult two-thirds majority. While "not confident" in receiving two thirds, Vilsack remarked, the bill's supporters believe they can pass the bill during the week of November 29, which would, he said, also allow for "healthy debate."