House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson said Wednesday he doesn't expect the panel to try to tighten work rules in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, an issue that has the potential to divide Republicans in the upcoming farm bill debate.

“I don't know till we're done, but I don't see us getting more restrictive,” Thompson, R-Pa., told reporters Wednesday. 

In a letter to President Joe Biden on Tuesday, five House Republicans said “work requirements for able-bodied adults promote community engagement and a transition to self-sufficiency. These proposals would build on actions taken by the Trump administration to crack down on states’ abuse of waivers for able-bodied adults, which began under the Obama administration.”

The letter was signed by Matt Gaetz of Florida, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Dan Bishop of North Carolina, Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Ralph Norman of South Carolina. None are members of Thompson’s committee.

Thompson, who had not seen the letter, said some lawmakers are unaware of the existing rules, which generally require able-bodied adults under 50 years of age to work at least 80 hours a month.

“If those folks really wanted to be involved and be influential, maybe they should have signed up for the Agriculture Committee,” Thompson said. “I trust my members that we have here on the committee to understand that work requirements for decades (have been) a part of the farm bill.” 

In 2018, Republicans won the initial House passage of a farm bill that would have increased the number of adults subject to work requirements to include people in their 50s and parents of children over the age of 6. At the time, many employers were complaining that they had trouble finding workers, an issue many still voice today. But the provision was ultimately stripped from the bill in the Senate, then under Republican control.

The Trump administration subsequently finalized a rule aimed at making it harder for states to get waivers from the work requirements, but a federal judge vacated the measure and the Biden administration ultimately repealed it in 2021.  

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The opposition of just five Republicans could sink a farm bill in the House if the measure doesn’t have Democratic support, but Thompson expressed confidence that the legislation would have bipartisan backing.

“I have a lot of confidence in this team, both Republicans and Democrats, that we're going to be able to do good work, which makes a handful of folks who really don't understand any part of the farm bill irrelevant,” he said.

Thompson indicated he did want to address the so-called “poverty cliff” in SNAP that discourages people from working more hours or taking higher-paying jobs for fear of reaching the income limits for SNAP eligibility and losing all of their benefits.

Thompson’s remarks came after the House Ag Committee’s first official session of the year, an organization session in which the panel adopted its rules and oversight plan.

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