1Measure Would Slash Spending by About $40 Billion Over 10 Years, Scaling
Back Program Further Than Democrats Say They Can Accept.
By KRISTINA PETERSON
WASHINGTON—A long-running political battle over how much to cut food stamps
could take a new turn this week, as the House is expected to weigh a
Republican measure to scale back the program further than Democrats say they
The House GOP bill would cut spending on the Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program by about $40 billion over 10 years, according to
congressional aides from both parties. That is twice the amount that House
Republicans aimed to cut as part of a bill scuttled in June amid moves by
House conservatives looking to make broader changes.
Food-stamp costs surged during the recession, doubling to about $80 billion
last fiscal year from $40 billion in 2008. About 48 million low-income
Americans received food stamps in 2012, with an average monthly benefit of $
The new bill's passage would widen the gap between House Republicans and
Senate Democrats, who have called for food-stamp cuts of $4 billion over a
decade. But it would likely at least prompt long-delayed negotiations
between the two chambers over farm and food-stamp programs.
Food-stamp funding traditionally has been wrapped into a broader farm bill
that also reauthorizes federal support programs for farmers—a combination
that has ensured support from both urban Democrats and rural lawmakers.
But the push by House conservatives to scale back food-stamp funding forced
the chamber's leaders this year to divide the nutrition and farm programs
into separate bills. Later, the House narrowly passed a bill just extending
Conservatives are applauding the proposed food-stamp cuts and the move to
consider them separately from farm programs. "It's a big victory," said
Indiana Rep. Marlin Stutzman, one of about 20 House Republicans who helped
craft the separate food-stamp bill with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R
., Va.). "There's still a long way to go in both programs moving forward,
but we've been able to double the savings in this House proposal," he said
in an interview Friday.
The additional $20 billion in savings would come from a measure ending
states' ability to waive a federal requirement that "able-bodied" people
without dependents must work at least 20 hours a week or be in job training
in order to receive food stamps. Now, states with a jobless rate above 10%
can exempt some people.
Republicans have said the bill would sharpen the program's focus to provide
benefits to those who need them most—and the threat of losing food stamps
would motivate people to become more self-sufficient.
"No law-abiding beneficiary who meets the income and asset tests of the
current program and is willing to comply with the applicable work
requirements will lose their benefits under the bill," Mr. Cantor said on
the House floor last week.
Critics say the bill would remove a safety net that protects vulnerable
people. "It's extraordinary to say to a jobless, unemployed individual, 'You
're not working, so I'm going to take away your food assistance,' " said
Stacy Dean, vice president of food-assistance policy at the Center on Budget
and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank that estimates that the
House bill would push at least 4 million people off food stamps.
It isn't clear if the stand-alone food-stamp bill has enough support to pass
the House. No Democrats voted for the farm bill the House passed in July;
some Republicans could oppose the nutrition bill out of concern that that
even the doubled savings aren't enough.
"There are still conservatives that have problems with the size of the bill,
and rightly so. It's still a very costly program," said Mr. Stutzman, who
plans to vote for the bill, in part because it splits up the farm and food-
"At this point, I don't think they know if they have enough votes to pass it
or not," Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, the top Democrat on the House
Agriculture Committee, said late last week.
If the food-stamp bill clears the House, GOP leaders are expected to appoint
lawmakers who would be charged with reaching a deal with Senate Democrats
over extending the agriculture and nutrition programs into the new fiscal
year, which begins Oct. 1.
If no agreement is reached, many nutrition programs might be funded at
current levels under a short-term bill aimed at keeping all government
agencies running for several months into the new fiscal year. The terms of
such a bill,and whether Congress can agree on it,are expected to
be a focal point of discussions among lawmakers this week. Many of the
House conservatives who are pushing for cuts to food stamps also want the
short-term government-spending bill to strip money from the new federal
health law, a provision Democrats have rejected.
Separately, households receiving food stamps will already see their benefits
trimmed in November when a temporary increase in benefits granted by the
2009 fiscal stimulus program expires.
Write to Kristina Peterson at k***************[email protected]
2Tim Reynolds Wrote:
I knew it, talk about cutting food stamps and all the bleeding heart Lefties
would be squealing about how we are going after the poor. Actually we are
doing them a big favor, if you don't believe me then go to the grocery store
on the 1st of the month and you'll see exactly what I am talking about.
What you'll see is an OBESE woman with obese kids pushing at least 3 carts
full of chips, sodas, etc., up to the cashier. Oh and it won't be just one
or two instances of this, this is an all day event. Yeah those "poor" really
look like they are hurting, meanwhile we are struggling just to pay for
enough for one week.
Yes, you bet we need to cut back on food stamps and all of the fraud that
goes along with it. The more the Govt spends on this, the more people get
hooked into it and stuck on it for life. What we should do is cut back on
these hand out programs and put some of that savings into the hand up
programs like WIC. Yes we should have safety nets to help people between
jobs or people that really cannot take care of themselves, and these
programs should be at the State level, not the Fed level.