President Donald Trump is using a meeting with the House and Senate Agriculture committee chairmen today to emphasize that a new farm bill needs to tighten work requirements in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said.
Perdue told reporters this morning that it would be premature for Trump to threaten a veto, but he will tell the lawmakers he "looks forward to some form of work requirements in the farm bill."
Perdue said congressional Democrats are making a mistake by resisting tougher SNAP work rules. House Democrats are expected to be united in opposition to a GOP farm bill that is expected to be on the floor next week.
The bill would require adults under 60 and parents of children over 6 who receive SNAP benefits to work at least 20 hours a week. Under current law, the work requirement is limited to able-bodied adults without dependents under the age of 50.
"We know from the president’s campaign and from his remarks that what he believes is that the generosity and compassion of American people and the American taxpayer should not be abused with a permanent entitlement program which was designed to be a transitional program to restore people back to independence," Perdue said.
A congressional source familiar with plans for the 2 p.m. meeting said on Wednesday that Trump is expected to insist that the final farm bill include tighter work requirements for food stamp recipients, according to a source familiar with the meeting plans.
The source said the president's “leaning in” on the issue is primarily aimed at putting pressure on vulnerable Democratic senators such as Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana whom Republicans hope to defeat in November. Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., has insisted that House SNAP reforms can't pass the Senate and that his committee will produce a bipartisan bill that can get at least 60 votes, the number required to break a filibuster.
House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, said Wednesday that Trump’s “full-throated support for work requirements” would help him win over hard-line GOP conservatives who may be reluctant to back his committee’s bill because it doesn’t reform farm programs.
The bill also would prevent states from using a procedure called “broad-based categorical eligibility” to allow people to qualify for SNAP if their income exceeds the federal cut-off, which is 130 percent of the federal poverty level. For a three-person household that federal eligibility limit works out to $2,213 a month, or about $26,600 a year. In some states, people can qualify for SNAP with incomes at twice the poverty level.