US lawmakers vote to cut food stamp benefits from 2014
WASHINGTON — The Republican-run House of Representatives voted to cut spending on food stamps for the poor by US$40 billion (S$50 billion) over 10 years yesterday (Sept 19), defying a veto threat from the White House in the name of fiscal reform.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the driving force behind the legislation, said it was “wrong for working, middle-class people to pay” for abuse of the programme, whose costs have skyrocketed in recent years.
Democrats pointed to nonpartisan estimates that the bill would end benefits to 4 million needy people this year.
Representatives passed the bill on a party-line vote, 217-200. Speaker John Boehner said passage would trigger long-awaited negotiations with the Democratic-controlled Senate over a new US$500 billion farm bill, already a year overdue.
Senators voted in May for US$4.5 billion in food stamp reductions, about 0.1 per cent of the House proposal. With nutrition programmes as the sticking point, analysts are sceptical that a compromise farm bill can be written that would pass in the sharply partisan Congress.
Ms Debbie Stabenow, chairman of the Democrat-controlled Senate Agriculture Committee, called the House bill “a monumental waste of time” that would never become law.
“We have never before seen this kind of partisanship injected into a farm bill,” Ms Stabenow said.
The White House on Wednesday threatened to veto the House bill to prevent damage to “one of our nation’s strongest defences against hunger and poverty”.
A near-record 47.76 million people, or one of seven Americans — about 85 per cent of them children, elderly or disabled — received food stamps at latest count.
House Agriculture Committee chairman Frank Lucas hailed the House bill for its “common sense reforms”, while other Republicans used harsher language.