This week the House is preparing for a showdown over the farm bill's nutrition title, with Democrats staunchly opposed to the cuts and some moderate Republicans also uncertain if they can support the deep cuts pushed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.).
The much-anticipated Congressional Budget Office score of the House Republican's nutrition title shows that it would reduce overall spending by $39B over the 2014-2023 time period. Under CBO’s baseline, the agency also projects Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participation to decline from 48 million people in an average month in fiscal year 2014 to 34 million in 2023.
CBO estimates that a total of 2.8 million people would lose their benefits over the next decade, and another 850,000 households will see an average reduction of about $90 a month in benefits.
The House bill, Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act of 2013, was finally released after months of being closely held ahead of the anticipated vote this week.
The proposal includes what Democrats deemed “poison pill” amendments that they said led to the defeat of the bipartisan farm bill in June. This includes the amendment from Rep. Steve Southerland (R., Fla.) that allows states to apply federal work requirements to the food stamp program. Another amendment from Rep. Tom Reed (R., N.Y.) establishes a lifetime ban for convicted felons. Another controversial amendment from Rep. Richard Hudson (R., N.C.) institutes mandatory drug testing for all SNAP participation.
CBO explained the two provisions in H.R. 3102 with the largest budgetary effects would change eligibility for SNAP benefits are Section 109 and Section 105.
Section 109 would reduce the number of waivers available for certain childless adults who would otherwise be subject to work requirements or time limits. CBO estimates that, on average, about 1 million people with higher-than-average benefits would lose eligibility for SNAP benefits under this provision. The number of people losing benefits would decline from 1.7 million in 2014 to 0.5 million in 2023.
Section 105 would restrict categorical eligibility, a current policy that allows states to determine eligibility for SNAP based on receipt of benefits in other programs for low-income people. CBO estimates that, on average, 1.8 million people with lower-than-average benefits would lose eligibility for the program if this provision was enacted. The number of people losing benefits would decline from 2.1 million in 2014 to 1.5 million in 2023.
House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin C. Peterson (D., Minn.) called the nutrition bill "unnecessary and divisive." He added, "Even if this bill is defeated, as it should be, I worry the debate will eliminate any remaining goodwill needed to pass a farm bill."
In a statement from National Farmers Union president Roger Johnson urged members to vote against the nutrition bill as passage "will only make the already complex farm bill process more difficult."
Johnson called on the House to appoint its conferees to allow for the Senate and House to work out its differences based on the full farm bill passed in the Senate and the farm-only farm bill passed in the House earlier this summer.
The House Rules Committee is expected to take up the nutrition title Wednesday, setting up floor debate on the bill later in the week.