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House OKs $39B cut in food stamps without any Dem support

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By Gannett News Service
Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013, 8:54 p.m.

WASHINGTON — House Republican lawmakers voted on Thursday to slash food stamp spending by $39 billion during the next decade, setting up a showdown with Democrats over the popular program used by nearly 48 million low-income Americans.

The House voted 217-210 to cut food stamps by nearly twice the amount that was rejected by the chamber in June and far more than a Senate measure passed earlier this year that would trim about $4.5 billion. The bill failed to draw the support of a single Democrat, many of whom have said the steep cuts would erode a key safety net depended on by families with children, seniors, veterans and people looking for work.

This bill “guts nutrition for those most in need and says to the poor, to hungry children, to the disabled, seniors and our veterans, you don't matter,” said Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio. “You are not worthy of our help.”

The food stamp program, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), has been part of the farm bill for four decades and makes up 80 percent of spending in the legislation.

The Republican-crafted bill would cut benefits for able-bodied adults who aren't caring for children to only three months of food stamps during any three-year period unless they worked part time or participated in a job-training program. The bill also would restrict the use of “categorical eligibility,” where state agencies grant food stamp benefits to individuals who qualify for other assistance programs.

Republicans argued the bill would restore the program's original eligibility limits and preserve the safety net for the truly needy.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R.-Va., promoted the legislation as a way to put people on a path to self-sufficiency and independence. He said able-bodied people younger than 50 will not be denied benefits if they sign up for work. “There has been a lot of demagoguery around this bill, and unfortunately a lot of misinformation,” Cantor said.

Democrats have argued that slashing food stamps would leave millions of people who depend on the program hungry.

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