By Erik Wasson - 09/17/13 01:55 PM EDT
The powerful seniors group, AARP, on Tuesday came out against a House Republican bill that it says would "punish" people on food stamps.
The bill, which is headed to the House floor on Thursday, cuts $39 billion from the program over 10 years, and according to the Congressional Budget Office would remove up to 3.8 million people from food stamp eligibility next year.
A letter to all members of the House from AARP urged a "no" vote.
"The new House nutrition bill retains the provisions opposed by AARP and other anti-hunger advocates in earlier House Farm Bill efforts while adding more stringent conditions to discourage participation in SNAP and generate cost savings that will harm millions of documented hungry and food insecure Americans," the letter states.
Democrats are hoping that enough Republicans from poor districts will defect to defeat the bill, handing House leaders another embarrassing defeat just ahead of major fiscal fights over government funding and the debt ceiling.
They also hope that despite a defeat, House leaders will allow a House-Senate conference on a 2013 farm bill. The Senate farm bill contains $4 billion in food stamp cuts.
The AARP's voice significantly ups the opposition to the House bill, which has already drawn opposition from groups focused on hunger and from Catholic bishops.
"The slow economy, higher prices for food and energy, and the impending November 1, 2013 elimination of the SNAP benefit boost from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) have made the situation acute for all concerned," AARP said.
"Indeed, the amount provided to feed the typical family is projected to drop from about $4.50 to less than $4.00 per meal — a scheduled reduction regardless of the outcome of this legislation. We urge you not to punish food insecure Americans, and to vote against HR 3102," the AARP letter said.