The U.S. House narrowly approved legislation Thursday that would cut nearly $40 billion from food stamps over the next 10 years.
The Republican-controlled House voted 217-210 in favor of the bill, with 15 Republicans joining all 195 Democrats in opposing it.
All seven Republicans from Indiana voted for the proposal. Both Democrats voted against the bill.
Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, spoke twice on the House floor in support of the spending cuts. Stutzman, a LaGrange County corn and soybean grower, has been the leading advocate for stripping nutrition programs for low-income people from the five-year farm bill, which the House did in July. The current farm bill expires Sept. 30.
We can save taxpayers $40 billion by eliminating loopholes, ensuring work requirements and putting food assistance on a fiscally responsible path, Stutzman said during floor debate on the nutrition bill broadcast by C-SPAN.
The Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act would require all able-bodied adults without dependents to work or be looking for work before they can qualify for food stamps. It also would allow states to test applicants for drug use.
In the real world, we measure success by results, Stutzman said. Its time for Washington to measure success by how many families are lifted out of poverty and helped back on their feet, not by how much Washington bureaucrats spend year after year.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, has doubled its spending in the past five years to $82 billion a year. The House bill amounts to a 5 percent reduction in current spending.
Various Democratic lawmakers described the GOP cuts as cruel, mean and heartless during floor debate. They said the legislation would take food out of the mouths of 3.8 million Americans, including 170,000 military veterans.
The House bill isnt going anyplace in the Senate, Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., predicted during debate. The president wouldnt sign it. So I dont know what were doing.
Soon after the House vote, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said in a statement: This vote is shameful and undercuts our countrys basic values. Almost 9 out of every 10 dollars spent go to families with children, the elderly or disabled members.
The farm bill approved in June by the Democratic Senate contains SNAP, trimming its spending by $4 billion over 10 years. Sens. Dan Coats, R-Ind., and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., favored that measure in what was a bipartisan 66-27 vote.
Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, said Thursday that approval of the House nutrition bill was imperative so that a House-Senate conference committee would have both agriculture and nutrition proposals on which to try to negotiate a compromise plan.
American Soybean Association President Danny Murphy said in a statement that it is time to get to work passing a single piece of comprehensive legislation.
But earlier in the day, Stutzman said in a floor speech that separating SNAP from the farm bill would help end an unholy alliance between food stamps and farm policy. He said the two should be considered individually and on their own merits.
Stutzman told The Journal Gazette this week he had asked House GOP leaders to appoint him to the farm bill conference committee.
Bob Aiken, chief executive officer of Feeding America, a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks, said Thursday he is deeply disappointed in the House vote on food stamps, adding, Millions of our most vulnerable neighbors will be at increased risk of hunger if these cuts become a reality.
Feeding America members include Fort Wayne-based Community Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Indiana. Stutzman was a featured speaker Monday at Community Harvests 30th anniversary celebration.
Jane Avery, executive director of Community Harvest, said Thursday in an email: It is my belief that the SNAP program needs a comprehensive review to see where commonsense spending cuts can be made. Spending more doesnt mean that the program is going to be more successful in its intent to provide nutrition to hungry people.
Avery said that while she believes the government has a role in food assistance, Feeding America food banks are exceptional in getting hundreds of millions of pounds of food that would otherwise go to waste to people in need in a way that no other entity is, including the government.