July 16 (Bloomberg) -- House Republican efforts to cut record U.S. government spending on food stamps may instead backfire and make it more probable funding will continue at existing levels.
The House approved last week, over Democratic objections, a five-year bill governing aid to farmers that leaves out funding for food stamps. The programs have been coupled for decades in a bargain among rural and urban lawmakers.
With the White House threatening to veto the House bill, and Senate leaders insisting on keeping the farm and nutritional issues together, it is more likely that the food stamp program will continue if Republicans won’t compromise, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow said.
"If you want reform, if you want to be able to cut down on waste, fraud and abuse, that doesn’t happen unless we pass" food-stamp legislation as part of a farm bill, Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, in a conference call with reporters yesterday. "It’s going to take not just bipartisan support in the Senate, it’s going to take bipartisan support in the House."
House Republican leaders vowed to craft separate legislation to fund food stamps, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. A proposal designed to appeal to conservatives who want major cuts won’t gain Senate or White House approval, making it more likely that the program’s funding would continue without reductions, Stabenow said.
Food stamps, which were created through legislation separate from the farm bill, don’t necessarily die without a new agriculture plan, Stabenow said. Congress would likely continue to operate the program through other spending bills.
Annual average food-stamp enrollment has risen 77 percent since 2007, with the number of recipients falling only once since 2000. Spending last year was a record $78.4 billion, more than double its level four years earlier. Monthly food-stamp enrollment peaked in December at 47.8 million and was 45.7 million in April, the most recent month available. Spending reached its highest level at $6.47 billion in November.
Supercenters such as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and discounters such as Aldi Inc. and SuperValu’s Save-A-Lot chain benefit from the program, which subsidizes nutrition purchases for lower- income families, according to a Bloomberg analysis. The program has become for conservatives who want to cut spending, including those affiliated with the Tea Party, a symbol of dependency on government.