WASHINGTON — The U.S. House narrowly approved Republican legislation on Thursday that would cut nearly $40 billion from the federal food stamp program and require more people to work in order to receive the assistance.
Democrats charged that the bill would cut nearly 4 million Americans from the program — including 170,000 unemployed veterans — and mean 210,000 children will no longer qualify for free meals at schools.
“This legislation is preying on people,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, of California, said.
The bill passed 217-210; every Democrat in attendance and 15 Republicans voted against it. All five Oklahoma members of the House voted for it.
The vote came as food stamp recipients face significant cuts in their monthly benefits because a temporary increase that was part of the 2009 stimulus bill is set to expire.
However, most of the cuts approved Thursday will not become law since the Senate will not agree to them. The bill will go to a House-Senate committee that is trying to negotiate a broad compromise on farm and nutrition programs.
Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, who sponsored the bill on Thursday but showed little enthusiasm for it, said the House had to approve food stamp legislation so negotiators could complete work on the long-overdue farm bill.
Lucas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, made no guarantees to the House that the final version of the farm bill would include $40 billion in food stamp cuts.