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August 28, 2014

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House OKs deep cuts in food stamps, angering Nevada Democrats

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Karoun Demirjian

Nevada’s full congressional delegation met in the Mike Mansfield Room of the U.S. Capitol to discuss Nevada policy for the first time in several years, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013.

Back in June, the House of Representatives couldn’t muster enough votes for a farm bill that, among other things, would have slashed food stamps by $20.5 billion.

So they split it up. And on Thursday evening, the Nevada delegation was also split as they cast their votes for and against a measure to trim about $39 billion, or 5 percent, from the food stamp budget, in a stand-alone bill.

The vote was 217 to 210.

Nevada Republicans, such as Rep. Joe Heck, explained their vote to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funding as not a reduction, but a reform.

“Every able-bodied American that does not have dependents should be required to meet the work requirements … the reforms put in place by this bill ensure that only those that meet the income guidelines receive the assistance they need,” Heck said in a statement. “The best thing we can do to help those on SNAP and other forms of federal assistance is create an economic environment where the private sector can grow and create more good-paying jobs.”

But Nevada Democrats lambasted the measure as a cold-hearted move that will leave 4 million Americans hungrier next year.

“It is not only irresponsible, it is morally unacceptable to cut nearly $40 billion in food aid,” Rep. Dina Titus said in a statement. “Instead of denying basic food aid to millions of Americans, including children, seniors and veterans, we should be working to root out the causes of hunger and build strategies to eliminate food insecurity.”

“House Republicans support corporate welfare for big Ag and big business, but cut food assistance for the elderly, for the disabled and yes, even our vets,” Rep. Steven Horsford said on the House floor. “The person who received $1.50 per meal in Nevada is not the problem with the budget. The problem is corporate welfare and the special-interest giveaways that litter our tax code.”

Even Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., weighed in, calling the measure “shameful” and promising that “the Senate will never pass such hateful, punitive legislation.”

The House and the Senate were always divided over how much money should be spent on the SNAP benefits. The Senate argued for, and passed, a bill that made minor cuts to the program, mostly by eliminating automatic food stamp eligibility for people on other federal aid programs. The House’s initial proposal would have deepened those cuts, by eliminating something called “categorical eligibility,” which allows people with more than the $2,000 in savings or hard assets to be eligible for food stamps they would otherwise not be able to procure.

The House’s latest proposal, however, includes the “able-bodied” designation to which Heck referred, effectively stiffening the welfare-to-work requirements people without dependents will have to meet in order to receive food stamps.

In Nevada, monthly food stamp allotments are $123.35, slightly below the national average of $133.41.

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