Anti-poverty activists continue fast to oppose spending-cut deal

Anti-poverty activists who launched a hunger strike last month in protest of Republicans' proposed budget cuts are continuing to fast to oppose the spending deal congressional lawmakers and President Obama reached last week.

“We are not at all satisfied,” Ritu Sharma, co-founder of Women Thrive Worldwide, told The Hill Monday.

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According to the White House, the State Department and foreign assistance budget took the hardest hit in the six-month continuing resolution agreed to by Democrats and Republicans shortly before the government was set to shut down Friday night.

State and foreign assistance will be cut by $8 billion. The spending deal cuts $38 billion in total from the 2011 federal budget.

Sharma said that cutting 21 percent from this area will disproportionately hit food assistance for poor people abroad.

She said that she and other activists will continue their fast through this week. They are also protesting cuts in the Republican 2012 budget proposal authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), including to food stamps.

Sharma said her fast is open-ended, but that if there is no resolution to the budget fight by June she may have to end it for health reasons. “If there is no budget resolution by June and I have lost 30 pounds, we’ll have to see,” she said.

Former Rep. Tony Hall (D-Ohio) of the Alliance to End Hunger is also continuing his fast, and Bread for the World head David Beckmann has switched from a water-only fast to refusing food from sunrise to sunset. Hundreds of other activists had signed up for Hungerfast.

Twenty-eight congressmen had pledged to join the protest, though not all were fasting full-time. Organizers said it is unclear if all of them are continuing the protest, which was launched March 28 against the cuts to international and domestic food programs in the original House-passed spending bill.

Participating in the fast have been: Reps. Joe Baca (D-Calif.), Karen Bass (D-Calif.), André Carson (D-Ind.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Susan Davis (D-Calif.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Donna Edwards (D-Md.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Sam Farr (D-Calif.), Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), John Lewis (D-Ga.), Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), James McGovern (D-Mass.), Donald Payne (D-N.J.), Laura Richardson (D-Calif.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) and Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.).