Bill now sets up potential battle in the Senate later this year over Farm bill
By Corey Arvin
A bill largely supported by Republicans to cut funding to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps, and put Americans back to work, barely passed through the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday.
The legislation, called the “Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act of 2013”, would trim about $40 billion from the SNAP program over the next 10 years, affecting an estimated 4 million people, if it survives the U.S. Senate. Currently, SNAP costs $80 billion each year. Votes on the bill were split mostly along party lines with 217 Republicans favoring the bill and 210 Democrats who opposed.
“This bill makes getting Americans back to work a priority again for our nation’s welfare programs,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement.
Among its requirements, the legislation would prevent potential recipients from receiving automatic eligibility if they are currently receiving other welfare benefits. SNAP recipients would also be required to undergo drug testing.
Ahead of the U.S. House of Representative's vote on the bill Thursday, the White House threatened to veto the bill.
On Friday, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside) expressed his opposition of Republicans’ proposed cuts to SNAP, calling it “disgraceful”.
“More than 90 percent of people on SNAP are children, the elderly, disabled, or already working, and yet struggle to put food on the table,” said Takano.
“The House Republicans voting to cut $40 billion from this vital program is disgraceful, as it will be devastating to more than 4 million Americans. My hope is that the Senate will restore SNAP funding when it takes up the Farm bill later this year, so that these families are given the assistance they need,” he said.
Despite its success in Congress, the legislation is expected to be an uphill battle for conservatives when it reaches the U.S. Senate.
The Republican-led bill is the latest in a string of attempts to push more ideological statements, such as the defunding and repeal of the Affordable Care Act, rather than a desire to create new legislation that can succeed in the Senate, said Martin Johnson, Professor of Political Science at University of California, Riverside (UCR).
“When you think about political calculations, this is not going to go anywhere. It’s futile. It raises questions about politics and strategic behavior,” said Johnson. “The fact of the matter is a lot of Republicans oppose income assistance and the expansion of any social programs. If they could just make decisions themselves, we probably wouldn’t have things like food stamps.”
According to Johnson, recent moves by conservatives, including the threat of a possible government shutdown on Oct. 1, are virtually inconsequential as Republicans continue to speak to their base of constituents.
“It’s a head shaker. The thought of government inaction as appealing to voters is even stranger, but there are voters who are supportive of a lot of these members of Congress,” he said.
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