House Republicans are tearing each other apart over defunding Obamacare, but they have found something they can agree on: cutting food stamps.
Thursday evening, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by $39 billion, or about 5%, over 10 years. The vote was 217-210, with all Democrats and 15 Republicans voting against.
It would achieve the cuts by imposing new work requirements on some SNAP recipients and abolishing so-called "expanded categorical eligibility," which currently allows people to be deemed eligible for SNAP by virtue of their participation in other assistance programs.
Currently, 48 million Americans receive SNAP benefits. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the Republican plan would cut that number by 3.8 million in its first year, though the effects would be somewhat smaller later in the decade as the economy improves.
In July, House Republican leadership brought up a bill that would have cut SNAP by 2.5%, but it was defeated when 62 Republicans voted against it, in most cases because they did not think the SNAP cuts were large enough.
As usual, the necessary strategy for getting the Republican caucus to hold together was shifting the bill to the right. This time, only 15 Republicans voted no, and in this case most of the defectors were moderates objecting to the bill from the left.
As Jim Pethokoukis of the conservative American Enterprise Institute put it, this is not one of the steps that was needed to convince voters that the Republican party is focused on middle-class economic issues:
GOP rebranding effort - cut food stamps, BBA, slash top marginal rates to 1920s level, budget crises. Missing element: Bernanke impeachment— James Pethokoukis (@JimPethokoukis) September 19, 2013
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