Today the United States House of Representatives made it clear where it stands in regards to the country’s federal nutrition program – the House’s Agricultural Committee voted in approval of $33 billion in cuts to food stamp benefits over the next ten years.
According to reports, Representative Jean Schmidt (R – OH) led the discussion of the House’s decision, explaining the thought process behind the vote as an attempt to root out those who take advantage of food stamps without really needing them (the recent case of the Michigan woman who continued to receive assistance after winning the lottery was unsurprising mentioned):
Republicans on the committee said they did not want to hurt families that need assistance but that lax rules allow some people to use food stamps who do not really need it.
"What I look at here is an attempt to find out who truly needs the assistance," Schmidt said.
But the vote is by no means unanimous, and comes with a lot of controversy. Just last week, over 90 highly respected advocacy groups voiced their concerns over the budget cuts, asking congress to instead consider working to preserve the country’s nutrition programs. The same day, a study released by the USDA found that SNAP played a key role in reducing the country’s poverty rate by almost 8 percent in 2009 alone. Other committee members have also voiced disapproval of the vote:
"I would contend this entire process is a waste of time," Representative Collin Peterson, the committee's top Democrat, said in opening remarks.
"Taking a meat ax to nutrition programs that feed millions of hard-working families in an effort to avoid defense cuts is not a serious way to achieve deficit reduction," he said.
The budget cuts are not expected to make it past the Senate Agricultural Committee – if this is the case, the vote can be counted as more symbolic than anything else. But it still sends a strong message to constituents wondering what side their representatives are on.