A Sneak Peek at the 115th Congress

2016-12-08

On December 6, 2016, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) issued a statement declaring that “Child Nutrition Reauthorization negotiations have come to an end for the 114th Congress.” Roberts noted that “certain parochial interests and the desire for issues rather than solutions were put ahead of the well-being of vulnerable and at-risk populations and the need for reform.” 

SNA leadership met with Chairman Roberts in late November to discuss the status of Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR).  At this meeting, SNA asked Sen. Roberts for his thoughts on how the Association could assist in identifying opportunities for moving forward in 2017 with the new Administration and new Congress. Sen. Roberts affirmed he is committed to working with SNA and the soon-to-be-named Agriculture Secretary on seeking solutions to ensure strong child nutrition programs.

The 114th Congress officially adjourned in the early morning of Saturday, December 10. For additional background on CNR efforts this past year and prospects into 2017, please read “CNR: The Year in Review.”  

While President-elect Donald Trump continues his transition process, the 115th Congress is also taking form.  A brief summary on the current state of play in the U.S. House, U.S. Senate and child nutrition relevant committees follows.

U.S. House of Representatives

Though Republicans lost six House seats in the November election, they still hold the majority. Paul Ryan(R-WI), current Speaker of the House has confirmed that he will run for the position again. The evolution of his relationship with President-elect Trump, and those within Congress that support the President-elect, could be a deciding factor as to whether if he keeps his position after the House floor vote in January.

Nancy Pelosi(D-MN), will remain as Minority Leader of the Democrats in the House. Ohio Representative Tim Ryan attempted a longshot bid to unseat her, with the promise that he would bring Democrats into the majority or give up his seat if unsuccessful. Despite this pledge, Ryan lost to Pelosi 134-63 in a floor vote on November 30th. Even with the loss, the 63 votes in his favor indicate that his message to reassess the House Democratic Caucus strategy was received.

The House Agriculture Committee

The House Agriculture Committee will remain with its current leadership: Representatives Michael Conaway(R-TX), Chair and Collin Peterson, (R-MN), Ranking Member. Representatives Conaway and Peterson have shown interest in beginning discussions on the 2018 Farm Bill early next year. The Farm Bill authorizes funding for several farm and food programs, including school breakfast commodities.

The House Education and the Workforce Committee

Representative John Kline (R-MN) announced his retirement in 2015, giving up his seat as the Chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. Representative Virginia Foxx(R-NC) was selected as Chair of this Committee. Foxx spent much of her career as a teacher and administrator in North Carolina’s higher education system. By all current indications, Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) will remain as Ranking Member. Rep. Scott spoke out against block grants in school nutrition programs at a Congressional briefing co-hosted by SNA in June 2016.

U.S. Senate

Republicans saved their Senate majority in the 115thCongress, losing only two seats in the election. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the current Senate GOP Leader, was elected to continue in his role in the next Congress. Democratic Leader of the Senate Harry Reid will retire at the end of this year, and Charles Schumer (D-NY) was elected to fill the role. McConnell and Schumer will have to work cooperatively together to be productive in 2017 and both men say they anticipate being able to do so.

The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee

Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) remains Chair of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee. Some might recall that Roberts commended SNA members for their advocacy efforts and for “providing input, coming to the table and negotiating a resolution.” Roberts also spoke at SNA’s 2015 Legislative Action Conference. Debbie Stabenow(D-MI), well familiar with child nutrition issues, remains as Ranking Member.

The Senate Subcommittee on Nutrition, Specialty Crops, and Agricultural Research

This Subcommittee of the Senate Agriculture Committee will continue with leadership by Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), Chair, and Bob Casey(D-PA), Ranking Member. Senator Hoeven was instrumental in securing some flexibility for whole grains and sodium requirements in the Senate CNR bill. Hoeven also introduced the Healthy School Meals Flexibility Act in May 2015.

What’s Next?

The 115th Congress will be sworn in on January 3, 2017. Over the next several weeks, Representatives and Senators will settle into their new Committee roles and choose the legislative staffers who will help them accomplish their policy goals. It’s important to note that the 115th Congress will begin with the continuation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.  Read the accompanying news story with a Q&A about what happens now that Reauthorization efforts are back at square one.

In early 2017, SNA will survey members regarding top priorities for school nutrition policy issues. Based on the responses to this survey, SNA leadership and the Public Policy and Legislation Committee will write the SNA 2017 Legislative Position Paper in mid-February 2017.  This Paper will chart the course for the Association’s advocacy efforts in the new Congress.

Contact Us

120 Waterfront Street, Suite 300
National Harbor, MD 20745
servicecenter@schoolnutrition.org  

Tel (301) 686-3100
Fax (301) 686-3115

> For The Media

Sign Up for Our Newsletters

Read the latest news and developments facing the school nutrition industry, as well as stay on top of important trends and resources.

 

> Read the Latest Newsletters

SNA State Associations

The School Nutrition Association has a presence in every state across the country. View links to many of the state associations to find out more about what SNA is doing nationwide. 

> Learn More