Fight Over Food Stamps Reveals Sharp Differences in Congress

Sep 19, 2013

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro opposes shrinking the federal food stamp program.
Credit Ana Radelat / The Connecticut Mirror

Congress is heading into a major fight over food stamps. The battle highlights sharp ideological differences over a program that helps to feed about 220,000 people in Connecticut.

Conservative House Republicans, especially members of the Tea Party, say the food stamp program has become bloated and discourages people from finding jobs. They propose cutting $40 billion over the next decade from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the official name for food stamps.

A vote is planned later this week on a House Republican bill that would allow states to require recipients to attend jobs or job training at least 20 hours a week. James Lankford, a Republican Congressman from Oklahoma, said, “While a lot of people focus on the budget numbers, this is really all about people and about families, and how we incentivize work, and get a society that is engaged in work as a part of our culture.”

But Democrats are pushing back. No Democrats are expected to vote for the food stamp bill and Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro hopes some Republicans will help them kill the legislation. "I don’t understand anyone’s motivation to do this," she said. "What could be in their hearts? What could be in their heads to want to deny food to people who are hungry?"

If approved, the food stamp bill would become part of the House farm bill. But in negotiations over a final farm bill, the Senate is expected to reject the House’s cuts to food stamps.