Stillwater News Press

Local News

September 19, 2013

House votes to cut $4B a year from food stamps

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON (AP) — The House voted to cut nearly $4 billion a year from food stamps, a 5 percent reduction to the nation’s main feeding program used by more than 1 in 7 Americans.

The 217-210 vote was a win for conservatives after Democrats united in opposition and some GOP moderates said the cut was too high. Fifteen Republicans voted against the measure.

The bill’s savings would be achieved by allowing states to put broad new work requirements in place for many food stamp recipients and to test applicants for drugs. The bill also would end government waivers that have allowed able-bodied adults without dependents to receive food stamps indefinitely.

House conservatives, led by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., have said the almost $80 billion-a-year program has become bloated. More than 47 million Americans are now on food stamps, and the program’s cost more than doubled in the last five years as the economy struggled through the Great Recession. Democrats said the rise in the rolls during tough economic times showed the program was doing its job.

Finding a compromise — and the votes — to scale back the feeding program has been difficult. The conservatives have insisted on larger cuts, Democrats opposed any cuts and some moderate Republicans from areas with high food stamp usage have been wary of efforts to slim the program. The White House has threatened to veto the bill.

“I remain committed to getting a five-year farm bill on the books this year. Today’s vote was another step toward that goal. The House passed a bill that makes common-sense reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that encourages and enables work participation, closes program loopholes, and eliminates waste, fraud and abuse while saving the American taxpayer nearly $40 billion. SNAP serves an important purpose to help Americans who are struggling, so it is equally important that we ensure the program is working in the most effective and efficient way. I look forward to continuing conversations with my House and Senate colleagues as we move toward a farm bill conference,” said Chairman Frank Lucas.

House leaders were still shoring up votes on the bill just hours before the vote. To make their case, the Republican leaders emphasized that the bill targets able-bodied adults who don’t have dependents. And they say the broader work requirements in the bill are similar to the 1996 welfare law that led to a decline in people receiving that government assistance.

“This bill is designed to give people a hand when they need it most,” Cantor said on the floor just before the bill passed. “And most people don’t choose to be on food stamps. Most people want a job ... They want what we want.”

The new work requirements proposed in the bill would allow states to require 20 hours of work activities per week from any able-bodied adult with a child over age 1 if that person has child care available.

The requirements would be applicable to all parents whose children are over age 6 and attending school.

The legislation is the House’s effort to finish work on a wide-ranging farm bill, which has historically included both farm programs and food stamps. The House Agriculture Committee approved a combined bill earlier this year, but it was defeated on the floor in June after conservatives revolted, saying the cuts to food stamps weren’t high enough. That bill included around $2 billion in cuts annually.

After the farm bill defeat, Republican leaders split the legislation in two and passed a bill in July that included only farm programs. They promised the food stamp bill would come later, with deeper cuts.

In order to negotiate the bill with the Senate, Republicans said Thursday that one more step is needed — the House will have to hold a procedural vote to allow both the farm and food stamp bills to go to a House-Senate conference together.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News