Sánchez, Linda T.
Davis, Jo Ann
ANNOUNCEMENT BY THE CHAIRMAN PRO TEMPORE
The CHAIRMAN pro tempore (during the vote). Members are advised there are 2 minutes remaining in this vote.
Mr. FORD changed his vote from "aye" to "no."
So the amendment was rejected.
The result of the vote was announced as above recorded.
AMENDMENT NO. 4 OFFERED BY MR. LAMPSON
Mr. LAMPSON. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.
The CHAIRMAN pro tempore. The Clerk will designate the amendment.
The text of the amendment is as follows:
Amendment No. 4 offered by Mr. Lampson:
At the end of the bill (preceding the amendment to the long title), insert the following new section:
SEC. 5. ACTIONS BY YOUNG CHILDREN AGAINST SELLERS THAT MARKET TO YOUNG CHILDREN.
Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, this Act shall not apply to an action brought by, or on behalf of, a person injured at or before the age of 8, against a seller that, as part of a chain of outlets at least 20 of which do business under the same trade name (regardless of form of ownership of any outlet), markets qualified products to minors at or under the age of 8.
Mr. LAMPSON. Mr. Chairman, today the House is continuing to consider H.R. 339, the Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act. I oppose the core of this bill because I believe that the constitutional right to seek redress in our courts as guaranteed by the seventh amendment is inviolate and the right to civil justice is a fundamental element of any stable and just society.
Time and time again, we see measures on the House floor designed to immunize special interests from the only means that citizens have to hold certain companies and corporations accountable. And today's bill is no exception.
So that is why I offer an amendment to the bill to protect children 8 years of age and younger. This very narrow amendment targets only those fast-food chain restaurants who aggressively market their products to the youngest segments of our society.
As the chair of the Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus and, more importantly, as a concerned grandparent, I have always fought to protect our children's interests. And as such, I want to make sure that children learn how to make informed nutritional choices. Part of that process requires us to hold those who treat children as an advertising demographic accountable, especially when children's health is at stake.
Mr. Chairman, today the younger age group faces a litany of health issues that generations before them did not face. Heart disease, high blood pressure, hypertension, joint problems, asthma, diabetes and cancer are on the increase with these children. And a steady diet of fast food is the absolute last thing that they need. Unfortunately, fast-food restaurants are bombarding our children with advertisements that encourage overconsumption of unhealthy eating choices.
The average child views 20,000 television commercials each year. That is about 55 commercials a day. And more disturbingly, the commercials for candies, snacks, sugared cereals and other foods with poor nutritional content far, far outnumber commercials for more healthy food choices.
Every working parent knows how aggressive these marketing campaigns can be, especially when they tie in incentives such as playgrounds and contests and clubs and games and free toys and movies and television and sports league-related merchandise. Well, how can we expect our children freely to say no to fast food when it is, no pun intended, pushed down their throats in this manner day in and day out?
Well, one child in my district who is 8 and who suffers from juvenile diabetes faces a far greater battle to maintain his fragile health than do most children. He already faces a lifetime of increased health and nutritional expenses. And I do not want him and other children like him to fall prey to the marketing practices of the fast-food industry.
Working families have enough to contend with through fighting to keep their jobs and providing a good education for their children, so they should not have to take any even more steps to protect their children from industry and advertizing practices that are running rampant pants. Should this unfortunate set of circumstances become reality our children, must be able to seek redress in our courts and in our justice system.
Mr. Chairman, studies indicate that at age 8 and under, children are more susceptible to such advertising, and even less likely to understand the purpose of this advertising. So that is why so much of this advertising is done during the cartoon hour, and it is no coincidence that major fast food chains routinely run their advertisements during this time. The tragic results of this marketing of fast food is a nation of overweight children who remain vulnerable to a host of medical conditions that they should not have to worry about during their formative years.
It is for these reasons that this amendment to H.R. 339 is necessary. If we totally foreclose any opportunity, any opportunity to hold this industry accountable, especially for our youngest children, we will only see an increase in childhood obesity and other related problems. It is time we demand responsibility on the part of the fast food industry, it is our responsibility as lawmakers to protect those who cannot protect themselves. My amendment offers that safety net for our children. And for these and many other reasons, we should support it today. I ask my colleagues to join me in supporting this amendment.
Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment.
Mr. Chairman, this amendment will do exactly the opposite of what the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Lampson) says it will do, because what the amendment says is that it tells parents that if they are not responsible, they can become millionaires. The amendments exploit children and it discourages parents from exercising parental responsibility at all times. It is the parents that buy the Happy Meals. It is the parents that take their kids to the fast food chain. And few kids under 8 either have their own money to buy the Happy Meals or can make it to the fast food outlet without their parents taking them down there.
So if this amendment is adopted and little Johnnie or little Mary become big Johnnie and real big Mary before the age of 8, then their parents can sue and hopefully break the bank, according to what their lawyers tell them.
The Los Angeles Times says this is wrong. And one of their editorials they said, in part, "If kids are chowing down to excess on junk food, though, aren't their parents responsible for cracking down?"
The gentleman from Texas' (Mr. Lampson) amendment says, no, they are not. And as a matter of fact, we will give those parents the opportunity of monetary enrichment if they buy their kids far too many happy meals and do not just say no when Johnnie and Mary pull on their parents' shirt tails and say, let us go down to McDonalds or the Burger King or one of these other fast food outlets.
Now, even the best obesity doctors realize this amendment is another sad assault on the concept of parental responsibility. Dr. Jana Clauer, a fellow at the New York City Obesity Research Center of St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital has said, "I just wonder where were the parents when the kids were having those McDonalds breakfasts every morning. Were they incapable of pouring a bowl of cereal and some milk?"
Well, this amendment tells those parents that if they do not pour that bowl of cereal and put some milk on the top of it and ruin their kids health as a result, if those kids are under 8 they can go off to court because it was not their fault. Vote this amendment down.
Mr. WATT. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
Mr. Chairman, I yield to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Lampson).
Mr. LAMPSON. Mr. Chairman, the words that the gentleman of Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner) just spoke indicate that we would give the opportunity for someone to become wealthy in the event that the child became fat. Well, we are only asking that if a person becomes injured from eating the foods that are not healthy for them, and I also know that studies reviewed in a task force report indicate that the product preferences can indeed affect children's product purchase requests and we are bombarded with television ads. I know that those children are not so much with their parents when they are making the decision to go to McDonalds or whatever else, these fast food chains, but they are sitting in front of their television sets and the parents are there with them.
Much like what happened, and I believe the gentleman would probably agree that he does not like what we saw during the Superbowl when part of Janet Jackson's costume came off. Just like the child who was sitting in front of that TV did not have a choice of what he or she saw then, what choice do they have when they are watching cartoons and repeatedly time after time after time after time the same commercial that puts sugar in front of them over and over again continues to happen. Does it have an effect on their requests when they go to a grocery store or to a fast food restaurant? You better believe it does, and that is what this amendment is attempting to do. It gives them the opportunity to protect themselves from those injuries only.
Mr. KELLER. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
Mr. Chairman, I ask my colleagues to vote no on the Lampson amendment for at least three reasons. First, one of the cases involving McDonalds was brought by a 400-pound child. And every single meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner, that parent would take the kid to McDonalds and then shockingly one day wakes up and says, oh, the kid is 400 pounds. I never encouraged him to get any exercise. I never encouraged him to step away from the video games. I never encouraged him to not watch TV all day. I never encouraged him to eat healthy food. I never encouraged him to exercise. Now I want a million dollars.
That is insane.
This amendment tells parents that they are not responsible. And if they are not responsible, they can even profit by becoming millionaires and sue for it.
Now, it was brought up that these companies market to kids as well as adults. I have two kids, 8 years old and younger. I can tell you who else markets to kids. Barney, Bear in the Big Blue House, Dora the Explorer, Blue's Clues, Nickelodeon, the Disney Channel. In fact, one could argue if you take this argument, that, in fact, those programs are so enticing and so addicting and so enjoyable to kids but they have no choice but to sit there and watch them every day, and as a result, they lead a stagnant life-style, so why not sue them for obesity since they are marketing to them?
It puts the incentives in the wrong place totally.
Third, I want to briefly point out that childhood obesity is certainly a serious problem. The childhood obesity rates have doubled in the last 30 years. I do not stand before you today and hold myself out as the world's leading expert on physical fitness, but I can tell you the world leading expert on physical fitness, Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the founder of the aerobics movement, testified before my Committee on Education and the Workforce on February 14 of this year and said to us that these lawsuits against the food industry are putting, or putting a tax on Twinkies is not going to make a single person any skinnier.
He said, 30 years ago did kids come home from school and eat potato chips and cupcakes and cookies? Absolutely, they did. The difference is then they went out and rode their bike and played.
Now, they spend 1,023 hours a year in front of a TV screen watching TV or playing video games versus only 900 at school. Where are the parents? If you are talking about a kid eating fast food 21 times a week, where are the parents?
This amendment says the parents have no responsibility whatsoever. It defies common sense however well meaning the author may be. I urge my colleagues to vote no.
Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I rise to strike the requisite number of words.
Mr. Chairman, I am just confounded by the debate on the floor of the House as it relates to the Lampson amendment, and I rise to enthusiastically support it because all that I have been hearing from my colleagues in opposition is this is bash the parents day. The parents should have known. The parent needs to know. The parent ought to know.
The Lampson amendment is simple and it is without complexity. It simply tracks the tragedy that occurred some years ago when a young child was poisoned at one of our fast food locations in the northwestern part of America. I believe it was Whataburger and I believe it was in the State of Washington. All his amendment says is that if a child is injured, then you have a right to pursue the case on behalf of that child.
Now, as reason would have it, we already know that the Congress that we are under, over the last 10 years, has eliminated everyone's right to go into the courthouse for justice. So do not expect that there is going to be a rush to the courthouse with parents who are going to claim that all of their children have been injured because they are not going to be addressed. They will not have an opportunity to have their grievances addressed. All of the doors of the courthouses have been closed to individuals who have been aggrieved, if you will, and who have been injured.
This is a simple statement to provide the protection that the fast food chains want to have. How can we not, under the umbrella of equity, not accept the fairness of what the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Lampson) is offering today?
As the Chair of the Congressional Children's Caucus and the gentleman from Texas' (Mr. Lampson) leadership daily with exploited children, I cannot imagine that a simple amendment simply asking for fairness would not be accepted by this body. I ask my colleagues to look clearly and squarely at the simplicity of this amendment, and I ask them to vote for the Lampson amendment.
The CHAIRMAN pro tempore (Mr. Bass). The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Lampson).
The amendment was rejected.
AMENDMENT NO. 9 OFFERED BY MS. JACKSON-LEE OF TEXAS
Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.
The CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will designate the amendment.
The text of the amendment is as follows:
Amendment No. 9 offered by Ms. Jackson-Lee of Texas:
Section 4(5), insert after "or a trade association," the following: "or a civil action brought by a manufacturer or seller of a qualified product, or a trade assocation, against any person,".
Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Chairman, it is interesting in listening to the debate on this legislation and seeing, of course, extensive coverage that this legislation is obtaining, it would appear that we are doing serious legislation, providing improvement to the Medicare bill, Medicaid bill, finding ways to quell the violence in Haiti, bring some resolution to the Iraq war, but to my colleagues, we are doing none of that.
We are now spending hours on the floor, and I certainly thank my colleagues for allowing this amendment to be made in order, trying to dash the hopes of those who have been severely injured and are seeking a redress of their grievances in a court of law.
Now, all of us come from constituency that are filled with fast food chains and restaurants. Many of us would disagree with recent statements of the administration that that equals to manufacturing; but we do know that people are employed by this industry.
In my own community, I have been a strong advocate of small businesses and the franchise owners who have received their economic income from this industry. But, Mr. Chairman, we have gone too far.
Now, we want to take up the cause of fast food chains with the likes of McDonalds and Jack in the Box as characters, give them the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and tell Americans where to go. My amendment is simple. You protect the fast food chains from lawsuits, and I simply want to be able to protect those like Oprah Winfrey and others who wish to make statements about the industry or the product and allow them to be immune from lawsuits.
My amendment ensures that what is good for the geese is good for the gander. Those advancing healthy diet by discouraging the consumption of certain food because of their adverse effects on a person's health and weight gain should not be subject to litigation from the food industry while it stands immune from any accountability under this bill.
Simple. There is no sinister, if you will, hide the ball behind this amendment. It simply says that you are protecting the industry; they cannot be sued; they are above reproach; they have the Constitution and are shredding it, so why cannot we?
I do not understand. When Oprah Winfrey was sued, I do not recall any hue and cry in this body during, or in the aftermath of the lawsuit against Ms. Winfrey, millions of dollars, moving her television program to Texas, in order to be able to press her case. The system worked. There was a trial and she was vindicated ultimately, but a long trial, and the industry had its day in court. But if we are to end the public's right to a jury trial on issues of food safety, we cannot end the public's right to freedom of speech by leaving food critics who play an important role in educating the public, stimulating positive change and promoting sound eating habits open to lawsuits from an immunized industry.
This amendment addresses this concern and ensures that every American can engage in or has access to an open and honest debate.
Mr. Chairman, I would simply say that the time we have spent on this bill, I know that our time could have been more well spent. I do not know whether we have documented how many lawsuits have gone against the industry. I do not know how much money we have documented, but I would certainly say to my colleagues that it seems ridiculous that we have legislation that closes the courthouse door. The judicial system has worked well for us in America, and I simply think we should allow it to continue its work.
This amendment simply tries to make this bill minimally slightly better for the poor consumers and the voices of reason that are now opposing some of the extreme in this industry. My support is for the food franchisees and all of those who work in the industry, but even they realize that fairness is something that cannot be eaten up.
I ask my colleagues to support the Jackson-Lee amendment.
Mr. Chairman, I offered an amendment, "WATT X019," in addition to "MJ X004." This amendment would prohibit the food industry-which enjoys broad immunity under this bill-from initiating lawsuits against any person for damages or other relief due to injury or potential injury based on a person's consumption of a qualified product and weight gain, obesity, or any health condition that is associated with a person's weight gain or obesity.
This amendment is necessary to insure that the public debate on the health and nutritious effects of mass marketed food products is not completely squelched by this bill.
In 1996, Oprah Winfrey was sued under my home state's "food disparagement" laws by the beef industry for comments she made following the first "Mad cow" scare this country witnessed. After years of litigation, transfer of her television show to Texas, and an expenditure of over one million dollars, Ms. Winfrey prevailed at trial and on appeal.