Though lawmakers are back home for a lengthy August recess, a coalition of 204 House Democrats led by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., Tuesday submitted a letter to House Speaker John Boehner reiterating opposition to Republicans' proposed Supplemental Nutrition Assistance cuts in the 2013 Farm Bill.
Republicans in early August proposed the $40 billion in nutrition assistance cuts to serve as companion legislation to the already-passed 'farm-only' farm bill. Contentious House disagreement on the title more than a month ago caused leadership to move forward without the nutrition title; no Democrats voted in favor of farm-only bill.
"The Republican leadership recently forced through a Farm Bill reauthorization, H.R. 2642, which did not include the nutrition title, a major part of the Farm Bill that would reauthorize SNAP," Dems wrote in their letter, explaining that the "intentional omission" led to zero Democratic votes.
"We strongly believe in the critical importance of SNAP. Given the essential nature of this program to millions of American families, the final language of the Farm Bill or any other legislation related to SNAP must be crafted to ensure that we do not increase hunger in America," they said.
While the Republicans had originally settled on $20 billion in cuts during initial farm bill negotiations, the prospect of $40 billion in cuts came as a blow to many House members and especially House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., who said the move was part of a political messaging effort that has effectively killed chances for a passage of a full farm bill.
Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., also questioned the farm bill split and significantly higher SNAP cuts in a discussion about moving forward with conferencing the legislation.
"I don't understand the thinking in the House leadership in putting forward something that I'm not even sure can pass the House, certainly cannot become law and just creates another barrier to our getting the farm bill done," she said in a conference call Aug. 2.
Stabenow stressed that time is winding down for a conference on the bill, with only nine legislative days in September before the bill's extension expires on the Sept. 30.
And, though another extension is highly unlikely as well, some lawmakers would also rather have no farm bill at all than a farm bill with big nutrition cuts. DeLauro, for example, has long been a strong advocate for the SNAP program, often exceeding allotted discussion time on the House floor to voice her opinions.
Now, her Democratic coalition has reinforced that view for Speaker Boehner, calling SNAP "our country’s most critical anti-hunger program."