"No law-abiding beneficiary who meets the income and asset test of the current program and is willing to comply with applicable work requirements will lose their benefits under the bill," he said on the House floor Thursday.
However, opponents of the bill point out that states were given a waiver from the work requirement under the same criteria that states have received waivers in past administrations. Under current law, states can seek a waiver from the work requirements if they have a high unemployment rate, or if the jobs simply don't exist in their state.
The GOP bill would eliminate this waiver language completely. Opponents say this change would effectively cut people out of the food stamp program even when there are no jobs to find, and even if states don't have the funds to run job-training programs that people might use as a way to justify continued food stamp eligibility.
Requiring some people to work or prepare for work as a condition for receiving food stamps is expected to save about $20 billion over 10 years from the food stamp program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
This language is expected to be attached to the nutrition title of the farm bill that the House Agriculture Committee passed earlier this year. In July, the House approved a commodity bill that did not include a nutrition title, a move many Democrats opposed.
But Democrats are equally likely to oppose the GOP's new nutrition title next week. The committee's farm bill already cut about $20 billion from SNAP through various reforms, including restricting automatic eligibility for food stamps, eliminating SNAP for lottery winners and making sure illegal immigrants don't use the program.
Adding another $20 billion cut with the welfare-work language will double the cut to SNAP, and many Democrats will oppose the $40 billion reduction as excessive.
But Republicans are expected to reiterate their arguments that the cost of the food stamp program has grown enormously over the last several years. When the nutrition title was in the farm bill, it accounted for about 80 percent of the cost of that bill, clocking in at more than $740 billion over 10 years.
— This story was updated in several ways on Sept. 18, 11:36 a.m. to more accurately clarify current law, and to add some perspective of opponents of the bill.