By Mike Lillis - 09/17/13 10:12 PM EDT
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday she's confident Democrats could find enough Republican support to kill a GOP proposal that slashes funding for food stamps.
"We're optimistic that we can win this thing," Pelosi said Tuesday at a press conference on the Capitol grounds.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said the Democrats "know of several Republicans who have said they will vote against it," though she declined to cite a number or name names.
Republicans can lose 16 votes and still pass the bill. A 17th would kill it.
Although food stamp funding has historically been coupled with legislation governing the country's farm policy, that strategy hit a wall in the House in June, when conservatives objecting to a smaller food stamp cut (roughly $20 billion) revolted, sinking the entire package.
In response, GOP leaders split the bill into two pieces. The agriculture portion passed the House in July without Democratic support, and the food stamp bill is scheduled for a floor vote on Thursday.
Sponsored by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the bill achieves much of its savings by eliminating states' ability to waive federal work requirements governing eligibility.
Cantor and other supporters of the measure argue that it's a common-sense way to reduce deficits and protect taxpayers by ensuring that only those in need of the benefits are getting them.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates it will eliminate up to 3.8 million people from the program next year and 14 million people over a decade.
Democrats have hammered the bill as a mean-spirited attack on the poor that can only increase hunger nationwide.
"It's either an incredible lack of sensitivity or an incredible ignorance that they have," Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) said Tuesday.
McGovern, a member of the House Rules Committee, also decried the process. He noted that GOP leaders opted to skip hearings and markups on the bill. He said the legislation was "cooked up in the majority leader's office as some sort of Heritage Foundation fever dream."
The Democrats got a boost on Tuesday when AARP came out strongly against the GOP bill.
In June, the Senate passed its own farm bill with a bipartisan vote of 66-27. That proposal cuts $4.1 billion from food stamps over a decade.
If House Republicans are able to pass their bill Thursday, the highest hurdle in the conference would be how to reconcile the $4.1 billion and $39 billion figures.
Asked Tuesday why Democrats don't help pass the GOP food stamp bill for the sake of expediting the conference process, DeLauro was terse.
"It would be immoral to ratify a $40-billion cut in the food stamp program," DeLauro said. "I don't care what conference it has to go through."