June 21 (UPI) — The House on Thursday narrowly passed a $860 billion farm bill that strengthens work requirements for food stamp recipients.
The chamber passed the legislation 213-211, with all Democrats and 20 Republicans voting against it. Republicans tried to pass the bill in May, but lost the support of Freedom Caucus members, who sought to spike the bill in order to force a roll call on immigration legislation.
The legislation cuts Supplemental Nutrition Program — food stamp — benefits by $9 billion over the next decade and strengthens the work requirements for those seeking the benefit. Independent estimates say nearly 4 percent of people who receive SNAP would lose the benefit under the legislation.
Children also face losing access to free or reduced-price school lunches. Meanwhile, $7.7 billion will be allotted to work training programs and administrative costs.
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin welcomed the passage of the legislation.
“This bill includes critical reforms to nutrition benefits that close the skills gap, better equip our workforce and encourage people to move from welfare to work, so more Americans have the opportunity to tap into the economic prosperity we’re seeing right now,” he said.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California called the farm bill “destructive.”
“Now is not the time for a partisan GOP Farm Bill that weakens the farmer safety net, slashes rural development initiatives and loan guarantees, and adds new layers of bureaucracy to rural broadband grants,” she said.
“After adding $2 trillion to the debt with the GOP tax scam for the rich, Republicans want to fill the hole by stealing food assistance from hungry families trying to make ends meet.”
The Senate is expected to pass its own version of the farm bill, which has bipartisan support and imposes fewer restrictions on SNAP. The differing bills could set up a conflict when they go to conference between the two chambers.
The food stamp program was added to the bill in the 1970s to persuade urban legislators to vote for a farming safety net, which is renegotiated and voted on every five years.