House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway said he is “going forward” with moving a new farm bill next month despite the refusal of Democrats to negotiate over provisions expanding work requirements and reworking eligibility rules for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
“I”m quite frankly excited about defending our SNAP proposals” in negotiations with the Senate, Conaway said, speaking at a Washington Examiner event Thursday morning.
The Texas Republican said he was “deeply disappointed, hurt quite frankly, that Collin led his team to the sidelines,” referring to the committee’s ranking Democrat, Collin Peterson of Minnesota.
Asked if the bill would only have GOP support when it reaches the House floor, Conaway said, “We’re talking about a bill that gets 218 votes, I don’t care if they are Democratic votes or Republican votes, we’re going to get 218 votes.”
Peterson, in a later interview, said the bill's expanded work requirements are a non-starter for Democrats. Republicans "say they have to have it. Our side won’t negotiate," he said. He blamed House Speaker Paul Ryan for the impasse, saying he was insisting on using the farm bill to advance GOP welfare reform ideas.
Peterson also warned if the bill gets to a conference committee with the Senate that he will side with the Senate Agriculture leaders, leaving Conaway on his own to defend the House bill's nutrition title.
The bill would expand the number of able-bodied adults who are required to work at least 20 hours a week, expand employment and training programs, and tighten categorical eligibility rules that allow more low-income people in some states to qualify for SNAP.
However, the bill also would raise the current income limits, increase the value of a car that SNAP recipients could own, and allow them to have as much as $2,000 in a savings account, a committee spokeswoman said.
The bill also would tighten SNAP “heat-and-eat” rule that increases benefits in some states that tie eligibility to heating assistance.
Under current law, the SNAP work requirement applies to able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) between 18 and 50. The bill would expand the requirement to include parents with children over 12 and raise the upper limit. Peterson said the top age would be raised all the way to 65. Conaway said he was wiling to negotiate the maximum age.
The leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Chairman Pat Roberts and ranking Democrat Debbie Stabenow are pledging that their bill will be bipartisan.
Speaking at the 2018 Agri-Pulse Ag and Food Policy Summit on Wednesday, Stabenow said that she and Roberts “are going to do everything we can” to pass a bill this year. “We intend to maintain a broad, bipartisan coalition to support a comprehensive bill. That’s how we got it done before,” she said.