House set to act on $40 billion cut to SNAP program
By Derrick Cain
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
WASHINGTON, Sept. 19, 2013 - The House is expected to vote today on a three-year nutrition bill (H.R. 3102) that aims to cut about $40 billion over 10 years from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as well as make an array of changes to the program.
The House Rules Committee last night approved a closed rule for the bill, clearing the way for House floor action. A closed rule means that no amendments will be in order for the bill.
Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, told lawmakers during the meeting that he expects the bill to be on the floor today. However, House Agriculture Committee Frank Lucas, R-Okla., told reporters he was “hopeful” it would hit the floor today.
Shortly before the committee action, the White House issued an expected veto threat of the legislation.
“The bill would result in millions of Americans losing access to SNAP,” the White House said in a statement of administration policy. “These cuts would affect a broad array of Americans who are struggling to make ends meet, including working families with children, senior citizens, veterans, and adults who are still looking for work. Slashing SNAP also weakens our nation's farm and rural economies.”
The 109-page “Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act” would make several changes to the SNAP program such as ending “categorical eligibility” and allowing states to set work-related requirements to receive benefits.
Lucas told lawmakers the bill includes much of the same language that was agreed to by the full House as part of the earlier failed attempt to approve a five-year farm bill. The House later approved a “farm-only” bill and separated the nutrition title.
The current plan is for the House to couple the nutrition bill with its “farm-only” bill and send the package to conference with the comprehensive Senate-pass farm bill.
“This has been an unusual process…this is a step toward a five-year farm bill,” Lucas said.
Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., said it was not necessary for the House to approve the nutrition bill to go to conference. “We just need to appoint conferees,” he said.
McGovern noted there were no hearings or markups of the bill, saying this is “not a good process.”
“This bill is going to hurt a lot of people,” McGovern said. “You're going after people who have done nothing wrong.”
Before the House Rules Committee action, Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., spoke on the Senate floor in opposition to their bill, noting that millions of people are still out of work and that the employment rate has remained nearly flat since the “Great Recession.”
“What the House Republicans are saying is this: get a good paying job or your family will just have to go hungry,” Stabenow said. “But there aren't enough good paying jobs, as you can see. And to add insult to injury, they are slashing the job training money that states get to help these men and women find work.”
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., also took to the Senate floor to speak against the House nutrition bill, saying it could derail passage of a long-term, comprehensive farm bill and put millions of farmers, ranchers, and low-income families at risk.
“It has been six years since we have passed a long-term farm bill,” Heitkamp said. “The Senate passed a bipartisan, comprehensive bill which I proudly supported. But the House seems willing to throw it all away.”
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