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House Republicans: Let Them Eat Nothing

Photo courtesy Gage Skidmore

In an extreme, out-of-touch vote, House Republicans voted on a Farm Bill Thursday that removed nutrition programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  Every Democrat and a dozen Republicans voted against the bill.  This vote came after a previous vote on the full farm bill failed, despite including significant cuts to SNAP.  The Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) wing of the Republican Party wants massive cuts to the SNAP program, with the Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) budget proposing more than $100 billion in cuts over a decade.  The previous farm bill included $21 billion in cuts.  A separate bill on the nutrition programs, including SNAP, is likely to be introduced soon and will probably have more cuts than the failed farm bill.

The split of the farm and nutrition components of the bill was opposed by a wide array of lawmakers and working families advocates, including Democrats like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), farm groups and anti-hunger groups.  The Senate previously passed a bill that included the nutrition programs and maintained a decades-old balance between rural and urban interests.  By bringing the two disparate groups together in one piece of legislation so that they had shared interest in the bill's passage, previous farm bills worked as a bridge that brought people together working towards a common good.  Today's extremist Republicans seem to have a problem with that.

The divided bill faces a shaky future, though, as the White House has signaled that it might veto the bill and a group of 16 senators sent Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) a letter opposing the split bill.  The Senate version of the farm bill only included $4 billion in cuts to SNAP and the Senate is unlikely to approve much larger cuts.  That could mean that SNAP stays in effect but is currently unauthorized, so it would maintain previous funding.  Dottie Rosenbaum of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) argued that an unauthorized SNAP program would be a much bigger target for cuts in other upcoming spending bills.

While Republicans talk about their move to cut SNAP as if it were just another belt-tightening budget measure, the reality is every dollar cut to the program means less food on the table for struggling families and children.  The cuts will have no real impact on deficit reduction and will be a real hardship for some of the most vulnerable families in the U.S.  But, at least Republicans will be able to tell their donors that they cut more "waste" from the budget.

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