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Clash Over Nutrition Program Expected to Focus on Who Deserves Food Aid

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Cantor has said he plans to put a nutrition bill on the floor this week that will propose up to $40 billion in reductions over 10 years to SNAP.

Lawmakers can be expected to engage in a battle of images over deserving and undeserving food aid recipients when the revised nutrition title of the House farm bill comes to the floor, perhaps as soon as this week.

That may include an unemployed, lobster-eating California surfer and beneficiary who’s been highlighted by Fox News and become a favorite target for conservative bloggers.

Republicans will call for tightening work requirements to reduce the number of jobless, able-bodied people relying on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for help with food. The goal, they will say, is to reduce dependency and increase the number of people in the workforce or who are job-ready. They will argue that the most vulnerable — the elderly, the people with disabilities and single mothers with young children — will not be affected.

Democrats will argue that the bill includes financial incentives for states, which administer SNAP, to move people out of the program without guarantees of continued employment. They also likely will say entire households could lose food aid if a member no longer qualifies for SNAP.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor has said he plans to put a nutrition bill on the floor this week that will propose up to $40 billion in reductions over 10 years to SNAP, formerly known as food stamps. The unnumbered bill is on the House schedule, but not on the Rules Committee’s Tuesday meeting schedule. There is still an air of uncertainty about when House Republicans and Democrats will clash on the floor.

Neither a draft nor a Congressional Budget Office score on the bill has been released. However, the Virginia Republican and House Agriculture Chairman Frank D. Lucas, R-Okla., have said the measure will include the original $20.5 billion in spending cuts in the House Agriculture Committee-passed farm bill (HR 1947) plus additional reductions from floor amendments the House approved in June. After the House rejected the committee bill, Cantor removed the nutrition title and the House approved an agriculture-only farm bill in July.

House leaders have made a floor vote on the nutrition bill a prerequisite before naming members to a conference committee with the Senate. The Senate has passed its farm bill (S 954) and appointed 12 negotiators.

Republicans supporting the proposal will talk about the value of work and the need for states to adopt changes similar to those in the 1996 welfare overhaul (PL 104-193) to get unemployed SNAP recipients into jobs or work-related activities.

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