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House GOP Moves to Double Food Stamp Cuts

Friday, 02 Aug 2013 12:28 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is leading a push to double the amount of cuts to the food stamp program by rolling back work waivers for able-bodied adults and targeting funds to states that increase work requirements for parents with young children.

Cantor's proposals could save up to $40 billion, twice as much as called for in the original House farm bill that failed to pass the chamber in June, reports Politico.

Cantor is working with conservatives to reshape the farm package with a goal of holding a House vote on the measure when lawmakers come back in September from their August recess. He also appears to be reaching out to party moderates.

According to Politico, Cantor's food stamp proposal primarily targets able-bodied beneficiaries who are under 50 years old and have no dependents. The poor economy, along with decreased state waivers of a 20-hour-a-week work requirement, has caused the numbers of adult recipients without children to skyrocket since 2008.

The bill's final details have not yet been made public, but if millions of people are taken off the food stamp rolls it could save the government up to $40 billion, proponents say.

However, those who oppose the changes point out that the impact could be hard on areas in the United States where unemployment is still high, particularly in poor urban areas and on Indian reservations.

The proposal is likely to draw even more opposition because it would also require mothers with children over one year of age to find work. Current food stamp rules say mothers whose children are younger than six are exempt from working.

News of the Cantor effort came a day after the Washington, D.C.-based Health Impact Project reported that 5.1 million people would lose their benefits if the proposed House bill that failed in June, which would cut $20 billion from the program, is resurrected.

According to The New York Times, the report said the affected recipients already have trouble getting enough food.

Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, told Politico that he wasn't sure "what the hell" Cantor was trying to do with his more stringent proposals for reforming the food stamp program. But he predicted it would make it even more difficult to enact farm legislation this year.

"I don’t know what they are trying to do here other than placate the Wall Street Journal and the Club for Growth and Heritage," Peterson added, referring to conservative calls for changes to the program. "I’ll guarantee you this is going to make no difference to the United States Senate. They are not going to be anywhere near close to it."

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, confirmed Peterson's analysis of the Senate's position. She also blasted Cantor's proposal, saying it only puts obstacles in a farm bill that needs to be passed before several key programs expire in September.

"It makes no sense to continue to see political gamesmanship that is going on that is blocking us from getting a farm bill," Stabenow told The New York Times. "There is not a lot of time left," she said.

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