Funding bill takes aim at Obama regs

Lydia Wheeler, The Hill

The trillion-dollar government spending bill now before Congress contains language designed to roll back a number of regulations issued under President Obama.

Policy riders in the "cromnibus" take aim at a broad array of rules, ranging from first lady Michelle Obama's prized school nutrition standards to marijuana legalization and clean water protections.

The bill’s language would not completely wipe out the school nutrition standards implemented under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. But the 1,600-plus page stopgap will keep schools from being able to pay for the dietitians needed to reduce sodium in school meals.

Only when the latest scientific research says that sodium reduction is beneficial to children will the funding be available.

And language has been added allowing states the right to exempt schools that are experiencing financial hardship from having to offer whole grain food products. Health advocates didn’t waste any time Tuesday voicing their disdain for the provisions.

“While this spending bill does not completely dismantle the program, the changes proposed will ultimately harm our kids’ health,” American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown said in a statement.

“If Congress hits the pause button now on the sodium reduction, it's possible that more children could develop high blood pressure and be at risk for heart disease or stroke before they even become adults.”

The bill aims to thrash recent approvals by prohibiting schools to purchase chicken from China, following concerns from consumer health groups over the country’s food safety system. The U.S. Department of Agriculture had certified four Chinese poultry processing plants to export fully cooked, frozen and refrigerated chicken to the U.S. last month.

Also contained in the bill is language that overturns the District of Columbia’s new law legalizing recreational use of the marijuana. The bill bars D.C. from using federal funds to enact or carry the law voters widely passed.

Medical marijuana advocates, however, are happy lawmakers didn’t loop the 20 some odd states that already allow the drug to be used for medicinal purposes. 

"We applaud this Congress for doing the right thing by protecting the rights of patients, and ending a years-long attack on the medical marijuana community," Mike Liszewski, government affairs director with Americans for Safe Access, said in a release.

"By approving this measure, Congress is siding with the vast majority of Americans who are calling for a change in how we enforce our federal marijuana laws."

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) defended the inclusion of the rider to prohibit funding for legalization of recreational use of marijuana in the nation’s capital.

"The Congress has always been involved in the financing of what goes on in D.C., so I don't think it oversteps our bounds," he said.

Other regulations on the chopping block include portions of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act. The bill prevents the agency from forcing farmers to get permits to collect water in ponds and irrigation ditches.