House panel okays $33 billion in food stamp cuts

WASHINGTON Wed Apr 18, 2012 5:55pm EDT

Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), who is also chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, answers reporters' questions on his views of the relationship between the U.S. Federal Reserve and Wall Street, at the Reuters Financial Regulation Summit in Washington, April 27, 2009. REUTERS/Mike Theiler

Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), who is also chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, answers reporters' questions on his views of the relationship between the U.S. Federal Reserve and Wall Street, at the Reuters Financial Regulation Summit in Washington, April 27, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Theiler

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. congressional panel approved about $33 billion in cuts over 10 years from food stamp benefits, in a largely symbolic and highly partisan vote opposed by committee Democrats and by anti-poverty groups.

The cuts advanced by the House of Representatives Agriculture Committee on Wednesday would reduce spending on food stamps that help 46 million people buy food by $7.7 billion in the first year, by $19.7 billion in five years, and the balance in the next five years.

The cuts are expected to die in the Democratic-controlled Senate. But the vote by voice underscored Republicans' preference for domestic spending cuts over defense cuts or tax hikes as they try to avoid automatic cuts that take effect in January.

Rep. Jean Schmidt cited recent press reports of a Michigan lottery winner who remained on food stamps as an example of faults in the program. "There are those that have benefited from this that may not truly need it," said Schmidt, a Republican.

The committee's proposal to tighten rules for qualifying for food stamps, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, and repeal a 2009 increase to the program's funding instead of reducing subsidies for farmers also could show Republican priorities for the next farm bill.

"I would contend this entire process is a waste of time," Representative Collin Peterson, the committee's top Democrat, said in opening remarks.

"Taking a meat ax to nutrition programs that feed millions of hard-working families in an effort to avoid defense cuts is not a serious way to achieve deficit reduction," he said.

AUTOMATIC CUTS LOOM

Food stamps and other federal spending are on the table as budget writers try to craft a plan that avoids about $98 billion in across-the-board, automatic cuts triggered by the failure of the debt-reducing "supercommittee" last year.

Committee members said the cuts would reduce projected costs by about 4 percent for SNAP. Enrollment in the food stamp program grew substantially during and after the recession, and Congress boosted its funding in the 2009 economic stimulus package.

Republicans on the committee said they did not want to hurt families that need assistance but that lax rules allow some people to use food stamps who do not really need it.

Chairman Frank Lucas said some states qualify all households receiving low-income assistance for SNAP instead of judging eligibility by income or assets. In others, he said, payments as part of a home energy assistance program count as income deductions that allow households to receive higher benefits.

"What I look at here is an attempt to find out who truly needs the assistance," Schmidt said.

But committee Democrats countered that the cuts would place the burden of debt reduction on programs for poor families.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote to lawmakers on Monday asking that they preserve funding for domestic and international food aid. The nonprofit Food Research and Action Center said on its website on Wednesday that the restrictions could push up to 3 million people out of the food stamp program.

The committee focused on food stamp cuts even though Representative Paul Ryan's House-passed budget suggested $30 billion in savings over 10 years could come from rolling back direct payments to farmers and crop insurance.

Ryan's budget directed six committees to find $261 billion in 10-year savings, with the biggest share of the cuts in the hands of the agriculture committee. Farm supports such as subsidies are popular in farm states that will vote in November when the full House is up for re-election.

(Reporting By Emily Stephenson; Editing by Alden Bentley and Toni Reinhold)

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Comments (12)
i bet white hispanics are behind this attack to african americans… we are expecting al sharpton to attack…

Apr 18, 2012 3:15pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
NewsView wrote:
Fair and balanced as opposed to “arrogant and creepy” would be for Republicans and the food stamp-cutting supporters to expect all levels of society that benefit from government legislation and funding to share the burden. Taking funding away from the most vulnerable Americans is an act of political cowardice. Play hardball with the people who have a powerful lobby — not the disadvantaged whom are growing in number yet paradoxically “out of sight and out of mind”. (Apparently, they also assume none of them read the newspapers!)

These political hacks are going to start losing more and more elections because they’ve proven that in the most protracted time of “jobless recovery” ever to hit the history books they’re woefully out of touch with the plight of the under employed and unemployed — and stunningly incapable of advancing a vision for revitalizing this country’s decaying infrastructure.

Let’s see… We need jobs and we need modernization projects if we hope to prime our infrastructure for economic growth. If neither the Republicans nor the Obama Administration can come up with any leadership on the jobs/infrastructure front, that ought to tell voters everything they need to know: They’re all cut from the same unimaginative cloth and they ALL deserve the electoral boot for their utter disconnect and incompetence.

It’s no longer the realm of alarmist conspiracy, folks: We’ve reached a point in time where the elite govern for the elite and no one else. It’s blatant!

Time for an unemployment campaign against political incumbents who blame the formerly middle class for their need of food. Food prices have inflated by 40% in recent years thanks to legislation that has invited greater commodities speculation coupled with fed monetary policy that’s hell-bent on infusing liquidity on Wall Street at the expense of our buying and savings power. What with 30-some years of incremental line-my-own-pockets, woefully lopsided “free trade”, it’s no wonder anti-American economic policies are creating more and more government dependents. Nobody likes it. But as long as they are going to engineer a poorer and poorer society, socialism will be the only “solution” to years of undercutting domestic wages, jobs and tax revenues.

It’s high noon on the Great American Experiment. Time for a long, hard look at why such social programs are in higher demand in the first place. Time we started fixing causes rather than symptoms!

If you, as an elected “civil servant”, can’t ask your powerful friends to share the pain after your policies enabled them to gain the gains, you’re guilty of crony capitalism.

These politicians know no shame!

Voters need to show up in droves in the upcoming elections to upset this rotten apple cart until every last one of these lawmakers understand who they answer to.

Apr 18, 2012 3:42pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
codestud3 wrote:
it’s either that or the obama phones. you can’t buy votes with social programs.

Apr 18, 2012 3:49pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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