Hoyer says House Democrats are ready to swallow $9 billion in food stamp cuts

Greg Nash

A bipartisan proposal to cut food stamps by $9 billion would likely pass the lower chamber with support from Democrats, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said this week.

"If that is the figure, and if other matters that are still at issue can be resolved, I think the bill will probably pass, and it will pass with Democratic — some Democratic — support," Hoyer said Thursday during the taping of C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" program, which will air Sunday. "Not, certainly, universal Democratic support. … But I think it will pass."

ADVERTISEMENT
Bipartisan negotiators from both chambers are said to be nearing a deal on a farm bill that would include roughly $9 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps.

The deal would break a yearslong impasse over a five-year renewal of the farm bill that had centered largely around the parties' widely different approaches to SNAP funding. While House Republicans have pushed for a $39 billion cut to the program over a decade, Senate Democrats had proposed $4 billion.

Hoyer said he doesn't support the $9 billion cut, per se, but is "inclined to support it" to enact the larger package. 

"I don't like the fact that we went further on the [SNAP] cuts," he said. "But that's over 10 years, so it's not as bad as it could have been, and much better, frankly, than we could have expected."

Hoyer's backing of the $9 billion figure is significant, as House GOP leaders are expected to lose the support of a number of conservative Republicans who feel that anything much less than the $39 billion cut is a nonstarter. The GOP opposition means that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will almost certainly need Democrats to get the bill over the finish line.

It won't be easy winning Democrat support. While the $9 billion cut is much closer to the Democrats' figure, it still represents a significant reduction in SNAP funding and is sure to be opposed by liberal Democrats already criticizing the Senate's $4 billion proposal.

Hoyer predicted that "the majority of Democrats may feel that they cannot support it because of the SNAP cuts."

The savings come by making it tougher to receive enhanced food stamp payments through the federal home-heating assistance program. Under current law, some beneficiaries can receive additional SNAP benefits, if they receive as little as $1 per year through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP. 

Hoyer said the deal that farm bill negotiators are considering would raise that threshold to $20 — a provision contained in the House GOP proposal.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D) has been a vocal critic of the SNAP cuts. Still, the California liberal this week remained open to supporting a $9 billion SNAP reduction as part of a broad farm bill agreement, something she said “we very much want."

“I look forward to seeing it and how they arrive at that figure and what their timetable is on it,” Pelosi told reporters Thursday in the Capitol.

“I’ve been very concerned about the food stamp and nutrition cuts that are in the bill," she added.  "[But] we very much want a farm bill and hope that the final formulation will be acceptable."