Congressional Republicans looking to cut food stamps…
Rhetoric Meets Reality in the Budget Season
It was unfortunate political timing for House Republicans: On Friday, as the Agriculture Committee was drafting budget-cutting legislation that could knock 295,000 people off food stamps, the Agriculture Department released findings that 529,000 more Americans went hungry last year than in 2003.
The juxtaposition neatly encapsulated the problems that Republicans will have this week and next when they try to put their rhetorical zeal for spending restraint into legislative action.
The Senate took up far-reaching legislation yesterday that would slice $39 billion over the next five years from a slew of entitlement programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, student loans and agriculture subsidies, while raising revenue by opening Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. A final vote is due Thursday.
The House will go further. Most likely by Thursday, the House Budget Committee will take up eight different bills from eight different committees saving at least $50 billion over five years. In so doing, the legislation will rewrite welfare laws, curb federal support of state child-support enforcement, reverse a court-mandated expansion of foster-care programs, and make significant changes to Medicaid, such as allowing states to add co-payments and premiums for families just above the poverty line. The full House is expected to take up the measure next week.
Even $50 billion is just a 0.6 percent nick out of the $7.8 trillion in federal entitlement spending expected over the next five years. At $844 million over five years, the embattled food-stamp cuts account for less than half a percent of the total food-stamp budget over that time, said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte (R-Va.).
But Democrats will emphasize that even that level of cuts will mean real pain for real people. And according to the Congressional Budget Office, neither the House nor the Senate bills will actually trim projected budget deficits, since they will be followed by a package of tax-cut extensions that would cost the Treasury $70 billion over five years.