September 20, 2013

House bill's $40 billion in food stamp cuts would hit Mainers

The proposal now moves to the Democratic-controlled Senate, where it will likely face major resistance.

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio walks to vote on the House floor on Capitol Hill on Thursday in Washington. Boehner and House Republicans scrambled up just enough votes Thursday to reduce food stamp funding by nearly $40 billion over the next decade if the Senate approves their bill.

The Associated Press

"This bill is designed to give people a hand when they need it most," said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the Republican from Virginia who crafted much of the bill. "And most people don't choose to be on food stamps. Most people want a job."

The administration of Maine Gov. Paul LePage has sought to reduce Medicaid assistance to able-bodied, childless adults but has maintained the food stamps waiver, which is paid for entirely with federal dollars.

John Martins, spokesman for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, said the department had no comment on whether the administration supports the changes in the House bill.

Martins acknowledged, however, that the political fight in Congress is adding to uncertainty about food stamps. Payments are scheduled to increase with a cost-of-living adjustment in October, but will then fall with the expiration of an extra amount authorized by Congress during the recession.

"It's a little bit complicated these days," Martins said.

Typically, food stamps are incorporated into the larger Farm Bill, dealing with agriculture policy and assistance programs, to build bipartisan support from both rural and urban lawmakers.

But House Republicans split the farm and food stamp provisions this summer after the conservative wing of the party said the $20.5 billion in proposed cuts did not go far enough.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., didn't exactly praise the House bill Thursday, but urged his colleagues to pass a bill just so they can begin final negotiations with Senate Democrats. But Lucas lamented the heated political atmosphere on the issue.

"As I said at the beginning of the debate, it should not be this hard to pass a bill to make sure the consumers in this country and around the world have enough to eat," Lucas said. "But everything seems hard these days."

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at:

kmiller@mainetoday.com

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