Why House wants to cut $4 billion from food stamps program

One in 7 Americans now receive food stamps, or 47 million people. But the House is expected to vote for a 5 percent cut in the food stamp (SNAP) program Thursday.

The House is poised to vote on cutting nearly $4 billion a year from food stamp assistance, now used by 1 in 7 Americans.

House Republican leaders were still working for support as they scheduled a vote on the measure for Thursday. Some GOP moderates questioned the 5 percent cut to the almost $80 billion-a-year program as Democrats united strongly against it.

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 who don't have dependents to receive food stamps indefinitely.

Conservatives have said the 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.

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

"I think the cuts are too drastic and too draconian," said Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., who plans to vote against the bill. He represents Staten Island, which was hard hit by Hurricane Sandy last year. "Those that really need the program will suffer," he said.

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, also plans a "no" vote, according to his spokesman, Michael Anderson. He said Young is concerned about the impact the cuts could have on people in his state's poorest, most rural areas.

With some Republicans wavering, Thursday's vote could be close. The GOP leaders have been reaching out to moderates to ensure their support while anti-hunger groups have similarly worked to garner opposition to the cuts.

The food stamp 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.

Republicans have 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.

"Politically it's a great issue," says Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., one of the conservatives who has pushed for the larger cuts. "I think most Americans don't think you should be getting something for free, especially for the able-bodied adults."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Tuesday that Democrats are united against the bill.

"Maybe I'm just hoping for divine intervention, but I really do believe that there are enough Republicans that will not identify themselves with such a brutal cut in feeding the American people," Pelosi said at a news conference.

Even if the bill does pass, it is not expected to become law. The Democratic Senate has opposed any major cuts, and that chamber passed a farm bill in June that had around a tenth of the cuts in the House bill, or around $400 million a year. President Barack Obama has also opposed cuts that go beyond the Senate bill, and the White House issued a veto threat Wednesday.

__

Follow Mary Clare Jalonick on Twitter: http://twitter.com/mcjalonick

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.