House approves $4 billion annual cut to almost $80 billion for food stamps; over to you, Senate

I felt the need to include both the proposed annual cut and the annual cost of federal food assistance programs in my headline, because I’m seeing a lot of headlines along the lines of “House passes GOP plan to slash food stamp funding,” “House Republicans pass deep cuts in food stamps,” and “House votes to cut food stamps by $40 billion.” Yes, $40 billion certainly sounds like an awfully “deep cut” on its face, minus the context in which that number actually refers to a $40 billion cut spread over 10 years, as well as the fact that enrollment in the federal food assistance has ballooned by 70 percent in the less than five years that Obama has been president.

Here’s a more straightforward version of Thursday evening’s developments, via CBS News:

The House has voted to cut nearly $4 billion a year from food stamps, a 5 percent reduction to the nation’s main feeding program used by more than 1 in 7 Americans. …

The bill’s savings would be achieved by allowing states to put broad new work requirements in place for many food stamp recipients and to test applicants for drugs. The bill also would end government waivers that have allowed able-bodied adults without dependents to receive food stamps indefinitely.

The major cuts were designed to satisfy House conservatives who rejected more moderate reductions to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) earlier this year, but with millions of Americans still struggling to recover from the recession, Democrats balked at the GOP bill.

All of the assembled Democrats voted nay, plus a handful of Republicans, making it a pretty tight vote at 217 to 210:

Who were the Republicans that voted against the bill?: Reps. Peter King (N.Y.), Shelley Moore Capito (W. Va.), Chris Gibson (N.Y.), Walter Jones (N.C.), Richard Hanna (N.Y.), Chris Smith (N.J.), Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), Don Young (Alaska), Frank Wolf (Va.), Mike Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Jeff Fortenberry (Neb.), Michael Grimm (N.Y.), Patrick Meehan (Pa.), Gary Miller (Calif.), David Valadao (Calif.).

Now it goes into conference with the Senate, where the Senate’s farm bill including much scantier food stamp cuts of $400 million a year, i.e. one half of one percent, will have to be melded with the House’s two separate ‘agriculture policy’ and food stamp bills. Senate Democrats would never agree to the House’s budget cuts, and if President Obama threatened to veto even just the House’s original plan to cut a mere $2 billion annually, then the current version is definitely not going to fly. If we actually see anything more than a one or two percent cut in the final bill(s), I’ll be shocked.

Senate Democrats have made clear they won’t agree to cuts of the magnitude passed by the House.

“Not only does this House bill represent a shameful attempt to kick millions of families in need off of food assistance, it’s also a monumental waste of time,” Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) said in a statement after Thursday’s vote.

“A shameful attempt to kick millions of families in need off of food assistance”? No. An honest attempt to bring under control the government’s runaway spending habits and job-killing, debt-collecting policies? Yes. If, as the president claims, the economy has indeed been “recovering,” then why is food stamp usage still on such a precipitous rise? Because the economy is not recovering, and big-government, big-spending, intrusive, top-down policies — ObamaCare and Dodd Frank spring overwhelmingly to mind, but there are many — are mucking up market signals and slowing down hiring. If Democrats, like myself and I’m sure all Republicans, are truly aggrieved by the millions who might now lose indefinite food stamp assistance under the GOP’s bill, perhaps they should actually try to help the middle and working classes by removing all of the barriers to job creation and economic growth with which they and President Obama have only succeeded in exacerbating the effects of the recession.

The NYT editors just published an op-ed entitled “Another insult to the poor” accusing the GOP’s bill “act of supreme indifference,” but the only real insult to the poor here is this embarrassment of an economy and the Obama administration’s utterly regressive policy provisions.

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David Strom 8:01 AM on March 27, 2023