Food stamp vote splits Minn. delegation

 

– House Republicans approved a plan Thursday that would scale back spending on the food stamp program, eliminating food aid for about 32,000 Minnesotans.

Over the next 10 years, the bill would cut $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

About half the bill’s savings would come from a measure ending states’ ability to waive a federal requirement that people without dependents work at least 20 hours a week or participate in job training in order to receive food stamps.

In the Minnesota delegation, support for the legislation split along party lines with Republican Reps. Michele Bachmann, John Kline and Erik Paulsen backing the bill. Democrats Collin Peterson, Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum, Rick Nolan and Tim Walz cast “no” votes.

Now that the bill has passed, Republican leaders are expected to begin negotiations with Senate Democrats over a final version of the farm bill.

Negotiations could prove tricky. A push by House conservatives to reduce food-stamp funding led party leaders to split the nutrition and farm programs into separate bills. The House passed a bill this summer just extending the farm programs.

But Senate Agriculture Committee leaders have already denounced the House GOP plan to divide farm and food policy. A Senate bill approved this summer would also cut food stamp funding, but only by about $400 million annually. President Obama has also threatened to veto the bill.

“There’s no reason to pass this bill here today other than to placate some people who want to make a point,” said Peterson, the lead Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee. “This bill isn’t going anyplace … So I don’t know what we’re doing.”

Republican lawmakers said the bill is designed to make sure that the unemployed try to support themselves rather than rely on government benefits. The government spent close to $80 billion on the food stamp program last year.

Opponents have said that while the House bill requires people to work or participate in job training to get food stamps, the legislation doesn’t require states to provide funding for job training programs.

Under the House proposal, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that roughly 3.8 million fewer people nationwide would be eligible for food stamps.

In Minnesota, the number of SNAP participants has increased about 90 percent in the past five years, rising from 289,000 to 550,000. Nationally, participation has increased 70 percent over that same period.

Corey Mitchell is a correspondent in the Star Tribune’s Washington Bureau. Twitter: @C_C_ Mitchell

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