Republican House leaders are working to line up votes for nearly $4 billion in annual food stamp cuts, but some GOP moderates are questioning if that is too much.
The savings would be achieved by allowing states to put broad new work requirements in place for many food stamp recipients and to test applicants for drugs. The House is scheduled to vote on the bill Thursday.
The bill also would end government waivers that have allowed able-bodied adults who don’t have dependents to receive food stamps indefinitely.
Conservatives have said the almost $80 billion-a-year program has become bloated. More than 47 million Americans, or 1 in 7, are now on food stamps, and the program’s cost has more than doubled in the last five years as the economy has struggled.
But finding a compromise — and the votes — to scale back the feeding program has been difficult. Conservatives have insisted on larger cuts, while Democrats have been united in opposition and moderate Republicans from areas with high food stamp usage have been wary of efforts to slim the program.
BOEHNER: Well, Bob, we should not be judged on how many new laws we create. We ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal. We’ve got more laws than the administration could ever enforce. And so we don’t do commemorative bills on the floor. We don’t do all that nonsense. We deal with what the American people want us to deal with. Unpopular? Yes. Why? We’re in a divided government. We’re fighting for what we believe in. Sometimes, you know, the American people don’t like this mess.
Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio suffered a stunning defeat on the farm bill last month, after 62 Republicans voted against the bill and all but 24 Democrats, opposed to some $20.5 billion in cuts to food aid over 10 years, also defected. The bill failed, 195 to 234, on June 20.
By splitting off the food stamp title of the legislation, which accounts for 80 percent of the nearly $1 trillion bill, GOP leaders hope to attract back enough conservative Republican votes to pass the measure. That would allow the House to negotiate with the Senate over a comprehensive Senate measure that drew the support of roughly two-thirds of that chamber’s members.
In some ways, the strategy appears sensible. Conservative groups and lawmakers, including Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin, have long wanted to divorce the two programs, arguing that putting them together helps shield social welfare spending from appropriate fiscal scrutiny. Given that Republicans hold the majority in the House, doing things conservatives want should bring more GOP votes.
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But in today’s madcap Republican conference, rifts over farm policy run deep. Even without the food aid, getting enough Republican votes to pass the bill still requires striking a detente between hardline free marketeers and members from agricultural districts that benefit from subsidy policies detested by the party’s fiscal right wing.
And this time, there won’t likely be a single Democrat to help fill in the gaps.
“My guess is in a few days they’ll figure out they don’t have the votes and then we’ll get back to reality - hopefully,” says Rep. Colin Peterson (D) of Minnesota, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, who opposes splitting the bill and believes all of his colleagues in the minority will oppose it, as well. “Either that or they will march off and kill the farm bill.”
The difficulty with the path House Republican leaders are feeling out is best explained through several conservative groups influential in the House GOP.
If the GOP splits the Bill into Farm Subsidies and Food Stamps and then fail to pass either it shows that they cannot govern even within thier own caucus.
Instead the House GOP is apparently making big plans for another debt ceiling hostage-taking, and this time they’ve got a strategy to demand big budget cuts from President Obama and the Democrats. According to the National Journal, House leaders are working on a “menu” of budget-slashing offers to Obama in exchange for lifting the debt ceiling for a short, medium or long period of time. Their template is Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget - the budget so unjust and biased against the poor that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops took time out from restricting women’s rights to criticize the Ryan plan.
As recently as two months ago, the Republican Party has been declaring that Obama needs to show he’s “serious” about deficit reduction by embracing “entitlement reform.” When pressed for what sort of ideas they’d need to see Obama embrace, two items have continued to make repeated appearances: so-called “Chained-CPI” for Social Security and means-testing for Medicare. While Obama has resisted pushing such “reforms” outright, to the approval of progressive Democrats, they have been the subject of his negotiations with Speaker Boehner as far back as the debt ceiling talks in 2011.
Now, less than six months after winning reelection on a platform of protecting such programs while raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, Obama has actually put such proposals on paper as a real budget offer to Republicans. And I think we all knew what was going to come next…
Remember those warnings about how instead of welcoming President Obama’s adoption of Chained CPI, Republicans would continue to deny him a budget deal and attack him for proposing to cut Social Security?
Well Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) — who also happens to be chairman of the House GOP’s re-election committee — just showed how it’s done, saying Obama’s budget “lays out a shocking attack on seniors.”
“I’ll tell you when you’re going after seniors the way he’s already done on Obamacare, taken $700 billion out of Medicare to put into Obamacare and now coming back at seniors again, I think you’re crossing that line very quickly here in terms of denying access to seniors for health care in districts like mine certainly and around the country,” he said on CNN Wednesday afternoon.
Needless to say, if the NRCC chairman is fronting this line of attack, we’ll probably see it pop up contested districts around the country next year.
So that’s the sum total of this latest effort of “bipartisanship”: A budget that will go nowhere and do nothing but serve as a club that the GOP will relish in taking to the heads of Democrats in next year’s midterms, while only further disheartening progressive Democrats who believed this past election a vindication of their message to the American people. Nice job breaking it, hero.
The House GOP unveiled their watered-down version of the Violence Against Women Act today, prompting an immediate and vocal reaction from the Democratic majority in the Senate.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the author of VAWA, derided the legislation as “partisan” and said it omits critical measures designed to protect vulnerable populations like Native Americans, immigrants and the gay and lesbian community.
“Next week, the House of Representatives plans to revert back to its partisan version of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act,” Leahy said in a statement. “The Republican House leadership has decided to replace the Senate-passed version with a substitute that will not provide critical protections for rape victims, domestic violence victims, human trafficking victims, students on campuses, or stalking victims. This is simply unacceptable and it further demonstrates that Republicans in the House have not heard the message sent by the American people and reflected in the Senate’s overwhelming vote earlier this month to pass the bipartisan Leahy-Crapo bill. A majority of Republican Senators — and every woman serving in the United States Senate — supported it.”
I would act surprised and/or outraged by this, but I’m not. The GOP’s war on women continues unabated.
What’s most amazing to me is that the House GOP strip out the protections for human trafficking victims. To give you an idea of just how deranged that is, consider that the very same protections passed in the Senate with a rare 100-0 vote.
I agree with the laser like focus here: this is about Congress doing their damned job and anything else is just distracting blabber. I’m normally a Paul Krugman fan, but I really don’t like the shiny bauble he threw in front of the press because they are just going to obsess over the coin idea now and lose focus of the real story.
Almost two-thirds of Americans say that the November election results give President Obama a mandate to raise taxes on the wealthy, according to a new survey.
A new Bloomberg News national poll finds that 65 percent of those surveyed — including 45 percent of Republicans — say that Obama campaigned, ran and won on his pledge to hike taxes on income brackets over $250,000.
But almost the same number of Americans — 64 percent — say that Obama also has a mandate to protect popular entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.
Those results give Obama a mandate on his tax proposal — but make it clear that the public is deeply opposed to any entitlement reforms that might be part of any “grand bargain” over taxes and spending between the House GOP and the Obama administration.
Both sides have been at odds over how to unwind the pending combination of tax increases for all Americans and automatic spending cuts. Republicans have largely refused to budge on the principle that tax rates should not go up for anyone.
What “religious freedom” bill?
Republicans stung by the culture wars that dominated the nation’s political discourse this year are standing down on social issues, acutely aware that the presidential and congressional elections five months off are expected to turn on a thin margin of cash-strapped independent voters neither party can afford to alienate.
How about House Speaker John Boehner’s vow to reverse President Barack Obama’s birth control policy? There’s no sign of any such legislation. The Ohio Republican reminds people daily that he is focused on jobs now.
Obama’s revelation that he supports gay marriage? Told ya so, said social conservatives at the core of the GOP - before they turned back to assailing the president’s stewardship of the economy.
And what happened to the GOP’s efforts to curb abortion? House Republican leaders made it go away by offering a vote on a bill to ban gender-based abortions Thursday - under special rules that guaranteed it would fail.
The House is scheduled to vote this week on a new bill that would allow federally-funded hospitals that oppose abortions to refuse to perform the procedure, even in cases where a woman would die without it.
Under current law, every hospital that receives Medicare or Medicaid money is legally required to provide emergency care to any patient in need, regardless of his or her financial situation. If a hospital is unable to provide what the patient needs — including a life-saving abortion — it has to transfer the patient to a hospital that can.
Under H.R. 358, dubbed the ‘Protect Life Act’ and sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), hospitals that don’t want to provide abortions could refuse to do so, even for a pregnant woman with a life-threatening complication that requires a doctor terminate her pregnancy. This provision would apply to the more than 600 Catholic hospitals governed by the Catholic Health Association, which are regulated by bishops and prohibited from performing abortions.
The bill also prohibits federal funds from going to health care plans that cover any abortion services, which might prompt insurers to stop covering abortions. That outcome would disproportionately impact poor women who can’t afford to pay for abortions out of pocket.