Congress is running out of time to pass major legislative priorities before the winter holidays, including a government funding bill, billions in emergency aid to Ukraine and Israel, and possibly tougher immigration reforms.
So naturally, House Republicans spent Wednesday passionately defending something else that they warned could decide the fate of Christmas itself: milk. Whole milk, to be precise.
“We want only the most nutritional option for Santa,” Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) argued on the House floor. “Whole milk is the unsung hero of his Christmas journey.”
Santa Claus needs to drink whole milk “to travel the whole globe in one night,” she said, perhaps confusing the effects of dairy with amphetamines. “Protein helps build and repair Santa’s muscles. Hoisting heavy sacks of gifts up and down the chimney is no easy task.”
“You see, it’s not just the magic of the season that helps Santa deliver presents worldwide. It’s also the fortifying nutrients of whole milk,” Foxx continued. “Reflecting on Christmas traditions this year begs the question, ‘If whole milk is a good option to fuel Santa’s extraordinary Christmas Eve journey, then why isn’t it an option for American schoolchildren in their lunchrooms?’”
While her concerns about Santa’s muscles may be real, Foxx was actually making the case for passing a bill to allow whole milk back into school lunch programs. The legislation by Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) would bypass a USDA and HHS advisory committee of child nutrition experts ― and the dietary guidelines they set ― to serve whole milk in schools, which have only offered low-fat and fat-free milk for the last decade or so.
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), who led opposition to the bill, noted that virtually every major public health organization agrees that low-fat and fat-free milk are the healthiest options for children, as whole milk is higher in saturated fat. The American Heart Association, the American Public Health Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics are among the groups opposing this bill.
But invoking so-called “experts” wasn’t enough to waive Republicans off of this fight. Foxx offered a powerful counterpoint.
“I’d just like to tell my colleague something that I think will be easy to remember about why we’re doing this,” said the North Carolina Republican. “Scientists slash experts designed the Titanic, amateurs designed… uh, designed… scientists, experts built the Titanic, and amateurs built the Arc.”
When one Democrat suggested that soy milk would be a better, more easily digestible option in schools than whole milk, Foxx scoffed.
“It is not milk. It is a plant-based food,” she said. “It isn’t milk, so you can’t call it soy milk. You can call it ‘soy drink.’”
“Neither is almond milk,” Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-Wis.) later insisted. “Milk comes from a mammal.”
Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.) said she supports the bill and pointed out that she raised her seven children on whole fat milk, and “they’re all within normal weight.” (Saturated fat in whole milk can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke, not necessarily your weight.)
“I also have recognized that children with high-fat diets stay full longer,” she said.
It was clear, even amid their jokes about this udderly ridiculous debate, that Republicans were determined to defend whole milk in this battle against, well, scientific evidence.
“Let’s end the war on milk,” Foxx declared.
Rep. Cory Mills (R-Fla.) warned of the Chinese Communist Party “infiltrating school lunches” if the U.S. doesn’t produce enough of its own milk. He even brought a poster featuring a milk carton with President Xi’s face on it, against the backdrop of the Chinese flag.
This is about “safeguarding our national security,” said Mills, offering an amendment to the bill to bar Chinese Communist Party entities from putting their milk into public schools.
But Scott pointed out that his amendment is “unnecessary” since school lunch programs are already required to buy domestic agricultural commodities, and there is plenty of milk to go around.
“I understand that FACTS, for whatever reason, seem to sink in a lot slower on the left than they do in America’s party,” Mills grumbled in response.
Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Wis.) also showed up with a poster that read, in all caps, COME AND TAKE IT. It featured a tiny brown carton of milk.
He gave a passionate defense of chocolate milk.
“Some may ask, why are we focusing on this issue?” Tiffany said to his colleagues. “The USDA has its sights on getting rid of chocolate milk in schools. It’s now up to us to act.”
“Come and take it, USDA,” he taunted.
When Scott again pointed out that child nutrition experts recommend that kids stick to low-fat and less sugary milks, Tiffany questioned the point of experts.
“Ohhh, those experts. Those experts. They’ve done us so well in the United States of America. Why are we $33 trillion in debt?” wondered the Wisconsin Republican, whose party in 2017 overwhelmingly voted for trillions of dollars in tax cuts for rich people and corporations.
“Those experts that told us that butter is not good for us. Remember that?” he continued. “Well all of a sudden, they’re changing their tune on that.”
(Butter is still not good for us.)
Tiffany said he’ll never forget the day that he was at a local gas station and a school lunch director who he didn’t know came up to him and asked him to “tell the federal government to get out of our school lunch program.”
“I had multiple school lunch directors across northern Wisconsin, in my district, say, ‘Federal government, stay out of our school lunch programs,’” he said, perhaps missing the irony of his words and his actions. “‘We know what we’re doing.’”
Scott replied that Congress should probably base its decisions “on science, not what somebody tells us at the gas station.”
In the end, though, whole milk overcame its haters. The House passed the bill, 330 to 99, and may have saved Christmas.