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House Democrats Want No More Food Stamp Cuts in Child Nutrition Bill

Without food stamps, this could be a child's only decent meal all day - during the school year. (photo: bookgrl via Flickr)

House progressives, angered by the continued chipping away of the federal food stamp program as a pay-for in various bills, are taking a stand with the child nutrition bill, which the Senate passed before leaving for their August recess. That bill paid for increases to the federal school lunch program with food stamp cuts, essentially cutting a child’s dinner to pay for their lunch.

The House also has a version of the child nutrition bill, George Miller’s Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act, which the House Education and Labor Committee marked up earlier this year. That bill has no pay-fors yet attached. But in a letter to Nancy Pelosi cosigned thus far by 50 House Democrats, most of them from the Progressive Caucus, demand that she schedule the House version of the bill for a full vote, rather than the Senate child nutrition package.

Yesterday, the House passed the state fiscal aid bill, which also used the food stamp program to pay for a worthwhile measure of saving 318,000 state and local education and health care jobs. The theory behind the reduction is that food prices did not rise as anticipated when an increase in the program was put in place through the Recovery Act, and this reduction would simply have the expanded benefits run out on time, in 2014. But many liberals were irked by this cut, and vowed to revisit that offset, which wouldn’t take effect until four years from now. “Food assistance works for working families, making sure that children, young mothers, and our most vulnerable workers will never go to bed hungry,” said John Garamendi (D-CA). said. “The cut to food aid doesn’t take place until 2014, and by then, I hope this Congress can have a more reasonable conversation on the wisdom of exposing millions of Americans to hunger.”

The child nutrition bill is probably a good place to use some leverage. It’s a priority for the First Lady, and with 50 House liberals opposed to the food stamps offset, they essentially hold veto power over the bill.

The list of 50 co-signers includes the usual suspects like Progressive Caucus co-chairs Raul Grijalva and Lynn Woolsey, as well as House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers and Transportation Committee Chair James Oberstar, but also freshman and sophomore Democrats like Mike Arcuri and Ben Ray Lujan.

This isn’t the only offset in the state fiscal aid package which has House Democrats upset. Speaker Pelosi herself extracted a personal promise from the White House to restore some loan guarantees for renewable energy which were cut to pay for the bill.

The full letter is on the flip.

Dear Speaker Pelosi,

We write to express our concerns with several bills that have been recently referred to the House by the Senate. H.R. 1586, funding for Medicaid and education jobs, as well as S. 3307, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, both use improvements made by the ARRA to the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) to pay for the programs included in each bill. While we are strong supporters of the programs funded in these bills, we are disappointed that the Senate used SNAP, a safety-net program that literally keeps families from going hungry, to pay for programs to help provide healthcare for low income individuals and to help teachers keep their jobs. As you know, prior to this vote on H.R. 1586, the Democratic majority has provided historic increases in the SNAP program; yet we are now forced to choose between jobs and healthcare or food for hungry people. This is one of the more egregious cases of robbing Peter to pay Paul, and is a vote we do not take lightly.

While we did not oppose H.R. 1586 because of the critical need for immediate action on state Medicaid funding and education jobs, we respectfully request that the House not consider S. 3307 either during the special recess session or when the House returns for the post-recess session. Instead, we strongly urge the Leadership to schedule H.R. 5504, the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act, for floor consideration in September. This bill provides critical improvements in the school and summer meal programs and will help reduce hunger and obesity in children around this country. The House Education and Labor Committee has completed the mark-up on this bill. We recognize that H.R. 5504 must be offset, and we urge you to work with Chairman Levin, Chairman Peterson and other relevant committees during this recess to identify proper offsets so that the House can consider Chairman Miller’s bill upon return from recess.

We look forward to working with you on this important bill.

CommunityThe Bullpen

House Democrats Want No More Food Stamp Cuts in Child Nutrition Bill

House progressives, angered by the continued chipping away of the federal food stamp program as a pay-for in various bills, are taking a stand with the child nutrition bill, which the Senate passed before leaving for their August recess. That bill paid for increases to the federal school lunch program with food stamp cuts, essentially cutting a child’s dinner to pay for their lunch.

The House also has a version of the child nutrition bill, George Miller’s Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act, which the House Education and Labor Committee marked up earlier this year. That bill has no pay-fors yet attached. But in a letter to Nancy Pelosi cosigned thus far by 50 House Democrats, most of them from the Progressive Caucus, demand that she schedule the House version of the bill for a full vote, rather than the Senate child nutrition package.

Yesterday, the House passed the state fiscal aid bill, which also used the food stamp program to pay for a worthwhile measure of saving 318,000 state and local education and health care jobs. The theory behind the reduction is that food prices did not rise as anticipated when an increase in the program was put in place through the Recovery Act, and this reduction would simply have the expanded benefits run out on time, in 2014. But many liberals were irked by this cut, and vowed to revisit that offset, which wouldn’t take effect until four years from now. “Food assistance works for working families, making sure that children, young mothers, and our most vulnerable workers will never go to bed hungry,” said John Garamendi (D-CA). said. “The cut to food aid doesn’t take place until 2014, and by then, I hope this Congress can have a more reasonable conversation on the wisdom of exposing millions of Americans to hunger.”

The child nutrition bill is probably a good place to use some leverage. It’s a priority for the First Lady, and with 50 House liberals opposed to the food stamps offset, they essentially hold veto power over the bill.

The list of 50 co-signers includes the usual suspects like Progressive Caucus co-chairs Raul Grijalva and Lynn Woolsey, as well as House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers and Transportation Committee Chair James Oberstar, but also freshman and sophomore Democrats like Mike Arcuri and Ben Ray Lujan.

This isn’t the only offset in the state fiscal aid package which has House Democrats upset. Speaker Pelosi herself extracted a personal promise from the White House to restore some loan guarantees for renewable energy which were cut to pay for the bill.

The full letter is on the flip. (more…)

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David Dayen

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