With Thursday’s vote to sever food stamps funding from the federal spending that guarantees the agricultural industry a baseline income, conservatives in the U.S. House achieved a longstanding goal. The GOP has pressed to undermine or outright end food stamps (formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) for years, as the ThinkProgress timeline below shows.
But Republicans appeared to realize that their long-awaited policy triumph invited Democratic criticism before the C-SPAN cameras.
Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) used a parliamentary tactic to silence Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL) after the Democrat said “Shame on the Republicans” in her remarks. Brown was baffled when the acting chairman told her to sit down, and her colleagues noted the Republican proclivity for attacking Democrats by name. After several minutes Woodall dropped his objection. (His office confirmed he had objected but declined to comment on his reasoning.) Brown finished her remarks with a reference to Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, saying “you-all do not care about the 47 percent.”
Watch the Woodall-Brown episode:
A senior Democratic leadership aide told ThinkProgress that the majority enforced unusually strict rules throughout the day on how Democrats could voice their arguments on the floor.
Eventually, the House voted 216–208 to approve the food stamps-free farm bill, in a culmination of years of work to constrict and undermine the program. From President Bush’s veto of a food aid funding increase in mid-2008 to Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budgets that would cut the program by more than a hundred billion dollars, the GOP has sought to curb food stamps for years:
SNAP kept 4.7 million families out of poverty in 2011 alone. It has one of the lowest fraud rates of any federal program, and with a return of nearly $2 for every dollar spent it is one of the most efficient ways the government can spend money to help people. Experts say severing the program from the farm bill exposes it to being neglected or gutted.
Meanwhile, the farm bill conservatives approved Thursday guarantees that farm owners — most of them large corporations rather than family farmers — receive federal payments in any year the price of their produce falls below certain thresholds. In many cases the thresholds are near or even above 100 percent of the previous year’s prices. In effect, the House bill guarantees it will always be profitable to grow sushi rice, while leaving poor Americans’ access to food assistance unprotected.