House Republicans irresponsibly have all but doomed chances of a farm and nutrition policy bill passing Congress this year.
The House’s mostly party-line vote Thursday to cut $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would remove nearly 4 million Americans from the federal program starting next year. Republicans led by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor also tied work requirements to food benefits and imposed stricter time limits.
The House measure is so far to the political right and so at odds with a Senate farm policy bill, which still includes nutrition policy and which passed in June, that there is little chance of a compromise in the conference committee where House and Senate bills are reconciled.
The proposed cuts to the food-stamps program amount to a 5 percent reduction throughout the next decade for a program that spends nearly $80 million a year on food assistance. Proponents defend the cuts as modest. But they will impact one of every eight households in Northwest Washington, half of those families with kids and a quarter with vulnerable seniors. Nationwide, nearly 20 percent of veterans need food stamps.
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GOP leaders looking for efficiencies in the farm bill should look elsewhere, such as among federal farm subsidy programs
Cantor argues the cuts and limits on benefits are similar to welfare reforms enacted by former President Clinton, a Democrat.
Food stamps do not foster a dependency culture as Cantor and other critics charge. Studies show food assistance programs actually lift millions of families out of poverty each year, feeding children, seniors and people with disabilities. The program helps reduce homelessness and public-health problems.
Washington’s Democratic delegation voted against the cuts. Republican Reps. Dave Reichert, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Doc Hastings voted for the cuts. The three lawmakers prioritized ideology over feeding people. The other Republican, Jaime Herrera Beutler, was absent.
Indeed, the people working hard every day yet needing extra help live everywhere, from Reichert’s suburban communities to Hastings’ Central Washington district.
The House bill has zero chance of passing the Senate or of securing the President’s signature. Pressure must continue for a responsible farm and nutrition policy bill.