The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens


House to take up Cantor food stamp measure today

2013_0919_LucasRules House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., left, makes a presentation on the nutrition bill to the House Rules Committee Wednesday. At right is Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, the chairman of the subcommittee in charge of nutrition. (Jerry Hagstrom/The Hagstrom Report)

The House of Representatives will debate and vote today on the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act, a bill that would cut the food stamp program by $39 billion over 10 years, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., announced late Wednesday.

The House will convene at 10 a.m. for morning hour and at noon for legislative business. The House is also scheduled to first consider a resolution for continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2014. First votes are expected between 3 and 4 p.m. and last votes are expected between 5 and 6 p.m., Cantor’s office said late Wednesday.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., is scheduled to manage the nutrition bill, although the final version was written in Cantor’s office. Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, is expected to manage the bill on the floor for House Democrats.

The House Rules Committee announced late Wednesday that the bill would be considered until a closed rule.

The Rules announcement followed a committee meeting earlier Wednesday at which Lucas presented the bill to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP or food stamps. Lucas said it would contain the nutrition title of the House Agriculture Committee-passed bill, the amendments added in floor debate on the farm bill and additional features added by Cantor and his working group on nutrition. He also noted that it would increase funding for food banks.

During the Rules Committee meeting, Lucas said he did not think that Cantor and his group were “malicious” when they wrote the “common sense” provisions that were added to the bill. But Lucas did not sound enthusiastic about the measure.

“I will admit to you in all sincerity that this has been an unusual process,” said Lucas, speaking of the failed attempt to pass a comprehensive farm bill, the passage of the farm-program-only farm bill and now the separate nutrition bill. Lucas added that he hopes the passage of the nutrition bill will lead to passage of a five-year farm bill.

House Rules Committee ranking member Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., said, “I deeply regret” the bill that was brought up as a way to move the farm bill to conference.

Slaughter noted that the White House has said that President Barack Obama’s senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill. (See link to Statement of Administration Policy on the bill below).

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said, “This is a vehicle to get into conference.”

No Democrat appeared with Lucas to talk about the bill. Fudge did not attend the Rules Committee hearing.

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said, “You don’t need this bill to go to conference.”

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., said he did not blame Lucas for bringing up the bill, but said he was “astounded” the Republican leadership would bring it up. Hastings added that in the Bible, “we instructed to care for the least of us.”

Speaking of a Fox News story in which a surfer talks about getting food stamps, Hastings said that he could take members of the committee to 100 households in which people would work tomorrow.

Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, demanded that Lucas tell him how much would be spent each year on food stamps under the bill. Lucas replied that food stamps costs $76.4 billion in the current year or $764 billion over 10 years, and that under the bill spending would fall to $72 billion per year or $724 billion over 10 years.

Burgess noted that food stamp spending had more than doubled since 2007 and added, “I wish we could do more,” implying he would prefer a larger cut.