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House OKs bill cutting food stamps by $39 billion over 10 years

Sept. 19, 2013 at 10:02 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- The U.S. House approved a bill Thursday that would cut $39 billion in food stamp spending over 10 years, and which the White House has said would be vetoed.

The House passed the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act on a vote of 217-210, with no Democrats voting in favor and 15 Republicans joined Democrats in voting against.

House Republican leaders said the bill is necessary because participation in the SNAP program has doubled during the past five years.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., while acknowledging the program helps "many Americans who are struggling," said the SNAP program was not meant "to keep you at the bottom."

The bill includes reforms Republicans have been proposing -- including new restrictions on food stamp eligibility and eliminating states' options to seek a waiver from rules requiring adult SNAP participants to work or get job-training to qualify for extended SNAP benefits, The Hill reported.

Democrats argued during debate on the bill Republican and Democratic governors alike have asked for the waivers.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said during debate Thursday there had been "a lot of misinformation" about the bill's provisions.

"Because the truth is, anyone subjected to the work requirements under this bill who are ... able-bodied, under 50, will not be denied benefits if only they are willing to sign up for the opportunity for work," he said. "There is no requirement that jobs exist, there are workfare programs, there are options under the bill for community service."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the bill "a full assault on the health and economic security of millions of families."

Senate Democrats have already said the bill has no chance of passage in the Senate.

In a statement Wednesday, the White House said the bill "would result in millions of Americans losing access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is one of our nation's strongest defenses against hunger and poverty."

"These cuts would affect a broad array of Americans who are struggling to make ends meet, including working families with children, senior citizens, veterans, and adults who are still looking for work," the White House said. "Slashing SNAP also weakens our nation's farm and rural economies."

"Today's vote was a highly partisan step that does nothing to promote a bipartisan, comprehensive Farm Bill and stands no chance of becoming law," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement after the vote. "The harmful plan championed today by House leadership would deny critical nutrition assistance for millions of Americans, including working families with children, senior citizens, veterans, and adults who are still looking for work. The Senate has passed a bipartisan Farm Bill two years running. Now it's time for House leadership to do their part by appointing conferees as soon as possible and completing the comprehensive bill that farmers, ranchers and rural Americans deserve."

Republicans Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia; Mike Fitzpatrick and Pat Meehan of Pennsylvania; Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska; Chris Gibson, Michael Grimm, Richard Hannaand Peter King of New York; Walter Jones of North Carolina; Frank LoBiondo and Chris Smith of New Jersey; Gary Miller and David Valadao of California; Frank Wolf of Virginia; and Don Young of Alaska voted against the bill.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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