House votes to let states add work requirements to food stamp benefits

"The amendment ... before us today builds on that successful approach and will give states the opportunity to test whether the same successful strategies that were used in past welfare programs in the 1990s will help food stamp recipients gain and retain employment and boost their earnings today," Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said in support of the bill Thursday.

Democrats objected to the language and said the 1996 welfare reform bill is not a model to follow. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) said people left the welfare rolls in response to that law because "we literally threw them off."

But the House sided with Southerland, and approved his language in a 227-198 vote.

The House rejected a similar amendment from Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), in a 175-250 vote. That proposal would have required all states to add a work requirement for food stamps, instead of just giving them the option.

In another key vote today, the House narrowly rejected an amendment from Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) that would have modified the U.S. sugar program in an effort to bring prices more in line with world prices. Pitts's language would have lifted trade restrictions, lowered sugar price support levels and given USDA more flexibility on import quotas.

"For too long, we've seen these subsidies and market protections drive up costs on taxpayers, consumers and businesses," Pitts said. He said higher prices created by the sugar program cost consumers $3.5 billion each year.

But several other members insisted that the program is not broken as it is today, and that it is not responsible for decisions by candy companies moving to other countries. Others said the current rules are needed to help ensure a fair price for U.S. producers.

"This is about protecting American producers, so you and I can pick it up off a table for free," said Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas).

The House killed Pitts's language in a 206-221 vote.

These votes and others were held in the last round of amendment votes to the farm bill. Other amendments considered were from:

— Trey Radel (R-Fla.), repealing the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center, which promotes lamb consumption and sheep shearing. Passed 235-192.

— Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), preventing producers of natural stone to petition the USDA for a marketing order. Passed 215-211.

— Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), reducing farm program payments limits to $250,000 per year for any single farm. Passed 230-194.

— Conaway, requiring a 10 percent reduction in the USDA's Thrifty Food Plan calculation, an estimate of nutritional needs per family, in any year SNAP is not authorized, creating an incentive to reauthorize and reform SNAP. Rejected in voice vote.

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