Key Dem: Farm bill likely doomed without 'radical changes'

Key Dem: Farm bill likely doomed without 'radical changes'
© Cameron Lancaster
A leading Democratic voice in the farm bill fight said Friday that the legislation is all but doomed unless Republicans make drastic changes to the proposal’s anti-hunger provisions.
 
Rep. Jim McGovern (Mass.), the top Democrat on the Agriculture Committee’s nutrition subpanel, hammered the Republicans’ proposed changes to federal food stamps, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), warning that the bill “will throw millions of people off the benefit.”
 
He’s urging House GOP leaders to adopt the approach of the Senate, which is considering increased funding for SNAP under its version of the farm bill.
 
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“From the very beginning I’ve said I will support a farm bill that doesn’t increase hunger in America. That was the bar I set, the line in the sand that I drew,” McGovern said in an interview with C-Span’s “Newsmakers” program.
 
“Well, you know, this bill will increase hunger. And so unless there’s radical changes I’m not sure that we can reconcile the bills.”
 
McGovern accused Republicans of wanting to dismantle SNAP, not because it’s ineffective, but because of an ideological distaste for federal programs designed to help the poor.
 
“This fits into the typical Republican pattern when it comes to SNAP, of trying to gut the benefit,” he said. “They don’t like it, and they have historically put a bullseye on this program. 
 
“I’m sick and tired of them beating up on poor people, because that’s what it is.”
 
Republicans unveiled a farm bill proposal on Thursday that would expand the work requirements for able-bodied adults to receive food stamps.
 
Under current law, those between the ages of 18 and 49 must be working or enrolled in job-training programs to be eligible. The GOP proposal would expand the range to include those up to 59 years of age.
 
Republicans argue the changes will encourage more people to find the work that will end their need for SNAP.
 
“This is going to help get more Americans out of poverty, and it's going to help more Americans get into the workforce, while maintaining support for those in need,” Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanSenate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Kelly lobbied Republicans to rebuke Trump after Putin press conference: report Lobbying world MORE (R-Wis.) said Thursday
 
Democrats reject that view, arguing that the current work requirements are already stringent.
 
McGovern said Friday that most SNAP beneficiaries don’t work because they’re either kids, seniors or disabled.
 
"Of those who can work, the vast majority work, yet they earn so little they still qualify for SNAP,” he said. 
 
“There are already limitations on able-bodied adults without dependents. They can only be on the program for three months and if they’re not in a job-training program or have a job, they lose their benefit. I think that’s harsh, but that already exists,” he added. “We have work-training programs that currently exist. Why are we reinventing the wheel?"
 
“This is an attempt to really go after a population who is vulnerable.”
 
The “Newsmakers” program airs Sunday at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on C-Span.