Congress Disagrees on How Many Billions to Cut From Food Stamps

Abby Ohlheiser
Congress Disagrees on How Many Billions to Cut From Food Stamps

The Senate passed a farm bill today that would, among other things, cut food stamp and nutrition assistance programs by nearly $4 billion over 10 years. The bill now moves to the House, where conservatives are probably going to take a cue from Republican Senator Ted Cruz and fight for much deeper cuts to food assistance programs, which make up the bulk of the farm bill spending. Somehow, we're supposed to end up with one big compromise farm bill when this is all over. But how that'll happen is still up in the air. No matter what, though, the rhetorical fight will probably focus on food stamps.

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The Senate vote was pretty bipartisan — 66 to 27 — but that's not likely to happen in the House, too. Many conservatives oppose the bill, which also addresses foreign aid, farm subsidies, and a host of other food-related spending measures, mainly because of the food stamp spending. A House version of the bill would cut spending there much more drastically, by $20 billion over 10 years.

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For comparison, the Congressional Research Service has a chart showing the comparable ups and downs in funding for the House and Senate bills, side-by-side ("nutrition" is where you'll find food stamps cuts): 

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After the Senate vote, Cruz released a longer statement which raised some eyebrows for its reference to "the unchecked growth of food stamp entitlements and numerous other programs unrelated to farming" in a bill that contained some pretty big cuts to the food stamp program. Last year, the Associated Press explains, the House decided not to look at legislation on the farm bill due to election-year disagreements over how much they'd like to cut from the food stamp budget, a program which one-in-seven Americans now use. As the National Journal explained this weekend, those cuts might not even be enough for some representatives. 

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Unsurprisingly, perhaps, agribusiness at least is apparently pretty happy with the portions of the bill that pertain to them, despite some big changes to the country's farm subsidy program