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House Democrats Attempt to Restore Food Stamps Funding

Tomorrow, the House reconvenes to vote on a $26.1 billion state aid package, providing Medicaid and teachers’ jobs funding to cash-strapped states. And while most Senate Democrats remained mum on the mechanism used to fund the bill — cuts to the food stamp program — House Democrats aren’t.

The state-aid package could only pass the Senate if it were entirely deficit-neutral. To fully offset its cost, Senate Democrats controversially cut what ultimately added up to $12 billion from an extension, included in the stimulus plan, to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. According to economists, the food stamps this program provides are the single most stimulative government spending.

But now The Hill is reporting that Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the head of the Agriculture Committee subcommittee that oversees the program, will attempt to find a different offset and to keep food stamps fully intact. Other House members support that plan.

“This is a bitter pill to swallow,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said in a statement to The Hill. “I fought very hard for the food assistance money in the Recovery Act and the fact is that participation in the food stamps program has jumped dramatically with the economic crisis, from 31.1 million persons to 38.2 million just in one year.

“But I know that states across the nation and my own state of Connecticut also desperately need these resources to save jobs and avoid draconian cuts to essential services for low income families,” she added. “As you can imagine, for me personally, it’s like ‘Sophie’s Choice.’”

DeLauro oversees annual spending on the food stamps program as chairwoman of the House Appropriations subcommittee for Agriculture. Asked if she would try to restore the food stamps money in future legislation, DeLauro said, “Yes, absolutely, I will be fighting for these funds.”

The question is how. My understanding is that the House won’t be able to change the bill — it needs to give an up-or-down vote to get the funding to states as quickly as possible. (Were the House to alter the bill, the Senate would need to come back to vote on it again.) It could, however, originate a later bill restoring the funding and finding new offsets for it, and then could encourage the Senate to vote for that. But I’ll check in on process later today.

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