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Child-Nutrition Bill Stalls Out Over Cuts to Food Stamps

This week, progressive House Democrats successfully managed to forestall a vote on sweeping child-nutrition legislation that used food stamps, now known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, as a pay-for. Senate Democrats made an approximately $2.2 billion cut to an additional benefit provided by the stimulus, and had already taken about $12 billion from SNAP to pay for this summer’s Medicaid and teachers’ jobs legislation.

House Democrats refused to cut food stamps — a voucher program that helps 41 million of the poorest Americans, many of them children, pay for food — once more.

Politico reports that the White House, including Michelle Obama herself, lobbied for the House to move the bill, which will now wait until after the midterms.

Despite personal appeals by the first lady, the Democrats balked at what they saw as a plan to pay for the nutrition bill by quietly cutting SNAP — an essential food safety net that lawmakers had already borrowed from to pay for emergency aid to states.White House spokesman Reid Cherlin said the administration has committed to restoring any proposed cuts to SNAP and will do all it can to move the $8 billion bill forward.“SNAP is not blocking the bill,” he said. “We’re working with the House leadership to schedule the bill as soon as it fits into the House schedule.”

But Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), who co-wrote a letter to the White House opposing the use of SNAP funds, told POLITICO that he and 106 others who signed it “have been saying everything we possibly could to make it clear that this would be a problem.”

As I reported earlier this week, anti-hunger campaigners broadly support the child-nutrition bill, which provides more funding to school lunches, beyond changes for inflation, for the first time since the 1970s. But they were incensed at the food stamp cuts. Joel Berg, the executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, explained that the SNAP cuts would mean less food for low-income families, full stop — therefore, he would not support the child-nutrition bill.

“I’ve been pulling my punches, and my progressive colleagues have been pulling their punches, because we’re rooting for this administration to succeed,” he said. “But honestly, if George W. Bush did what they’re trying to do, we’d be camping out in front of the White House. Goodwill only goes so far when tens of thousands of children need food.”

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