House GOP seeks billions in food stamp cuts

Also on the chopping block are federal workers' retirement benefits, government flood insurance, and grants for social services.

By MSNMoney partner Apr 18, 2012 12:48PM

By Brian Faler


House Republicans are calling for $34 billion in cuts over the next decade to the food stamp program, setting up a fresh election year battle over the U.S. budget deficit.


Lawmakers said they plan to include the reductions in a package of $261 billion in spending cuts they will propose to replace automatic cuts scheduled to take effect in January.


House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas said the plan is designed to squeeze inefficiencies out of the food-stamp program, which is projected to cost taxpayers about $80 billion this year.


"It's basically closing loopholes; it's tightening things up; it's reflecting the budgetary times we're in," said Lucas, an Oklahoma Republican.


Democrats said such cuts would hurt millions of poor Americans. "We're literally going to take it out of the mouths of babes," said Representative Peter Welch, a Vermont Democrat. "It's outrageous."


The plan is sure to stall in the Democratic-controlled Senate and probably will become a campaign issue.


"Everything that happens in an even-number year is always an election issue," Lucas said. The plan will establish a marker for Republicans in negotiations over what to do about the potential budgetary collision that looms at the end of this year.


About $1 trillion in automatic cuts are set to begin taking effect in January -- the outcome of last year's failure of a budget-cutting supercommittee to agree on a plan to reduce the deficit. The Bush-era income tax cuts will expire at the end of the year, and the government once again will be approaching its debt limit.


A budget plan adopted last month by House Republicans orders half a dozen congressional committees to recommend $261 billion in spending cuts by April 27. Lawmakers aim for the plan to reach the House floor in May.


The chamber's tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, charged with finding $53 billion in savings, is taking up legislation today that would make it harder for illegal immigrants to receive a child tax credit. It will also consider ending social services block grants, which help states provide a variety of services to low-income Americans.


"In their zeal to cut taxes for the very wealthy, House Republicans continue to put the burden on the backs of children, the elderly and the disabled," said Representative Sander Levin, the top Democrat on the Ways and Means panel.


The most significant item before Ways and Means would save $43.9 billion by requiring people who receive more in health insurance subsidies than they're eligible for under the 2010 health care law to return the entire overpayment to the government. Unanticipated increases in income -- such as a year- end bonus --can change someone's eligibility for tax credits, which will be calculated based on the previous year's income and paid directly to insurance companies.


Current law caps the amount of overpayments that taxpayers are required to refund to the government. Representative Dave Camp, the Michigan Republican who chairs the Ways and Means Committee, said the change would protect taxpayers by preventing them from paying for benefits to people who don't qualify.


The change would increase the number of individuals without health insurance by 350,000, said Thomas Barthold, chief of staff of the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation.


Other programs that probably will be targeted include federal workers' retirement benefits and the government's flood insurance program. Republicans also want to revamp medical malpractice laws to limit damages, which the Congressional Budget Office says would save money because lower insurance premiums for doctors would translate into smaller fees for their patients.


Food stamp cuts may be among the most contentious proposals. The program grew rapidly after the 2008 financial crisis, with about one in seven Americans now receiving benefits averaging $134 a month. This year's cost is more than the annual budgets of most federal agencies, and food stamp costs have more than doubled since 2007.


The Republicans' plan, which the chamber's Agriculture Committee is taking up today, would end a $20-a-month increase in benefits provided in the administration's economic stimulus plan. It also would clamp down on what Republicans call abuses by state governments of the program's eligibility rules, which they say have allowed many undeserving people to receive benefits.


"All we're simply saying is: 'You need to qualify for what you receive,'" Lucas said.

More from Bloomberg

Apr 19, 2012 3:30PM
Would I would like to know is how much we spend in foriegn aid each year.  How the heck to we still give money to others when we're broke????   Why are we still giving hand outs to oil companies.  Why are the rich not paying the same amount of tax % wise that I pay?  Somone needs to pull the curtain back on this whole charade we call the federal goverment and why is it still legal for corporations to lobby our elected officials?
Apr 19, 2012 3:57AM
The woman who threw the 800K Las Vegas party resigned and will retire into her 180K+++
a year Federal Pension. I need some punishment like that.
Apr 18, 2012 4:12PM
It is unbelievable how congress will cut programs to the needy, but those millionaire farmers still get their subsides. Before you cut food programs, dissolve the house and senate agriculture committees, stop price supports, subsidies, government loan programs, put agriculture on the free market. Then cut food stamps. Those farmers that can't make it in the free market can do what the rest of us do - get a job. This is another place where our congress is owned by vested interests.
Apr 19, 2012 9:34AM
Sure, lets cut the food stamp program because of yes, many cheats, while millions of the honest American children continue to go hungry.  Oh, just a thought, hundreds of thousands of our military families have to use food stamps.  Cut them too?  Does anyone remember what happened to the "compassionate conservatives? 
Apr 19, 2012 9:26AM
Starve em into submission. Or? is that revolution? I forget.
Apr 18, 2012 9:51PM
The federal budget is so bloated that it could receive a 10% across-the-board haircut and no one would notice. Every major program has its own lobby, and the ag lobby is one of the most powerful, so cutting the food stamp program or farm subsidies will difficult.
Apr 19, 2012 12:44PM
Republicans want 100% of the budget cuts to come from programs they hate, like food stamps, women's health, non-corporate welfare, Amtrak, NPR, and entitlements (Medicare and Medicaid). Of these items, entitlements are the only thing large enough to make any real difference in the deficit.  Democrats want to leave entitlements alone, cut defense spending, and raise taxes on the wealthy.

They are both right, and they are both wrong.  We  need major cuts in ALL areas, AND we need to raise additional revenue.  Simpson-Bowles is the only rational proposal I've seen, because it makes cuts in nearly all programs, raises additional revenue, and is hated equally by both parties.  

This is just the beginning of what is to come. The mandatory cuts will probably happen and everyone will continue the blame game. The public is getting tired of all the bickering and no resolutions. All I hear is “This is wrong….This is not going to work….It will cost…., etc” and there is no response with resolution(s) on how to fix the problem. 
I believe that we need to focus on our elected officials from the House and Senate and force them to play together and teach them the meaning of sharing.  We should ALL be in it together! There will be some pain in the beginning but as always, this will pass and Americans will adjust.

Apr 20, 2012 4:29PM

Trillions and trillions and more uncountable trillions down the sinkhole of the military industrial complex the last fifty years that benefited nearly no one except a very small percentage of the population. We should have had a peace dividend and a better life for americans instead it's gone the other way to even more insane military spending. This country with its crumbling infrastructure and huge and growing underclass is now the newest and biggest third world country. Our government has sold the common man down the river and has built a police state apparatus to protect themself from us just in case we decide to do something about it. This country has become a joke and disgrace and I'm

NOT proud to be an american.

Apr 22, 2012 5:34PM
Term Limits for congress. That's the only way you will get folks with enough common sense to put our once great country back on track. 
Apr 20, 2012 12:55PM
Well here they go again , republicans have no problem with big government as long as its for wall street banks and wall street ! And big oil , and farmers who are making record profits and collecting subsidies. Its all tax money . And it costs BILLIONS more than the cuts to food stamps program .
Apr 20, 2012 9:56AM
I had a dream that Obama won reelection and finally realized the bully pulpit power a president has. He now does not have to kiss the butts of his party, instead go to the people, take on the republicans with a angry and powerful voice and  force congress to work together and achieve what is best for America.  Later in the same dream Romney won and he  decided that his second term reelection and kissing the extreme butts of his party was not his main job. He decides to rally Americans for America. Of course this would be a nightmare for congress and their lobbyist power brokers. Imagine the greatness of America once again if these leaders actually cared about the American people and not the selfish interests of those paying for their office. I then woke up and realized it was only a dream. These fools in Washington will never work together again until a national crisis brings us to our knees.  And the crisis is just around the corner. The American people on both sides have been pushed to the brink and violence as in other countries is now a serious option. Never in America?  You are now dreaming. Congress needs to get their heads out of the sand and their butts. Defcon 3 you fools!
Apr 20, 2012 9:51AM

Republicans want more of these programs to be state run, yet they now claim that states are giving away benefits to those who don't deserve it? What's to keep states from doing the right thing with federal government taxpayer money?

In Wisconsin for example, Scott Walker came up short in balancing the budget so to balance the budget he is taking money from the federal government given to Wisconsin to help homeowners underwater with their mortgages.

Why must our most vulnerable in our society always bear the biggest burden of fixing our problems?

Apr 18, 2012 4:57PM
Only $261 billion in spending cuts? Why bother wasting their time? 

We have trillion-dollar deficits. Yet some people want to whine about "the poor" and "the needy." I hate to be the bearer of bad news...but we're all going to be poor and needy soon enough. That's what happens when you use government to make things "fair" by redistributing wealth. There comes a time when you just don't have enough wealth to redistribute. Then, you're just stuck with a massive and inept government that drains the wallets of those who decided to stick around and wait for their "fair share."

But's just those farmers and Republicans that are evil. It's not our ascendant and coercive government and its supporters. 
Apr 20, 2012 10:48AM
Then they could at least take the locks off the dumpsters.
Apr 23, 2012 8:40AM
I am all for helping those that need a hand.  However, I see a lot of corruption in the food stamp system.  Let's focus on penalizing the merchants who charge $50 on the link card (food stamps) to give cigarettes/beer to the parents.  Food pantries and school lunch programs are hurting because folks I know are using their food stamps for other things and then dipping into other programs to eat.  Let's get food stamps back to supplying food... 
Apr 19, 2012 12:19PM
I think the government needs to burn all the poor people.  We have no room in america for poverty....just burn them.
I have many chronic illnesses and receive $135.00 a month Food Stamps, I have never applied for more than Food, NO WELFARE MONEY, just $135.oo each month I am very hungry the First of the month until 10th day I can shop for only food, somewhere we find money to buy toilet paper to wipe our tears and ****. Republicans please live my life ONE month, oh, was a republican changed in 2010 after tea party became bitter as MitchMcConnell.

Bank of America & Fannie Mae have tried to sell my home since 1/09 and for the last few years I know what living in Hell on Earth relays.
OCC & CAG folk are waiting on decisions some need answers for health & will writing.
Apr 23, 2012 8:41AM
it seems our government is determined to create a better reason for the increase in crime . people have to eat and they will any way they can. if it means stealing it ,they will if they kill someone in the process then it will be. now if they decide to steal from the government officials who put this in effect so be it.
Apr 23, 2012 2:34PM

I live on SSI.  I have been fully disabled since 1997.  I can't work, so can't just get a second job to raise my income.


What they leave out of those figures, is SS pays less than 70% of poverty level($9500/year in my case).  and has not had a cost of living increase for 3 years<2012 first COL in 4 years> .  My Perscriptions are $12,000 a year , and Medicare part D cover less than half of that.  which leaves me $3,000 a year for everything else I need to live.  What kind of a home with utilities can you get for $250 a month and that leaves nothing for food or non-food nessesities Like Toilet paper and soap.  I have internet, because if it $20, a telephone is $60 (even with this so called life-line service the government pays for that is suppost to make it $1 a month, it only covers 911 service, still have to have the phone for it to work)


I get $90 a month in food stamps, and without it I wouldn't eat.  and even with it I eat what is on sale, not a balanced diet.  you set a meal plan for 21 meals at $1 per meal total cost.  I am a good shopper, but you can't do it. 


Now they want to take my only food source away? Let them try to live on what I get and see how long it takes them to develope a little compassion for the poverty stricken. 


Social Services are more important the the Congression Dinning Room, but you don't see them getting right or thier free meals.  or free haircut, and who else on the PLANET gets to vote themselves a raise?  When they give up some of thier perks and take a pay cut then, they have to right to talk about reducing costs elsewhere.  they are all millionaires, and they get everything they need free, but they want to pick on the poor. 


Brings to mind a Quote  " Are there no Prisons, are there no Workhouses, .... if they would rather die, then they should do so and reduce the Surplus Population"

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