The House of Representatives will begin revisions on its version of the 2012 Farm Bill Wednesday and food stamps will take center stage.
Democrats in the House have pledged to use every tool at their disposal to stop House Republicans from slashing $16.1 billion from food assistance programs over the next 10 years in their version of the 2012 Farm Bill, but Republicans defend the cuts by saying a rising national deficit requires tough choices be made.
"Our efforts over the past two years have resulted in reform-minded, fiscally responsible policy that is equitable for farmers and ranchers in all regions and will lead to improved program delivery," said Oklahoma Republican Rep. Frank Lucas, the Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.
"These proposed cuts show a total disregard for the real impact they would have on hungry kids and families across the country," Connecticut Democrat Rep. Rosa DeLauro said at a press conference Tuesday.
DeLauro says between two to three million people would completely lose their benefits and about 300,000 kids would not be able to receive free school lunches.
"These cuts are a slap in the face to millions of people trying to make ends meet," says California Democrat Rep. Lynn Woolsey.
Forty-five million Americans rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) every year. And that number has grown exponentially since late 2007 when the country dipped into a recession.
The Center on Budget Policy Priorities estimates about three-quarters of SNAP participants are families with children, and more than 25 percent of homes on SNAP have a senior citizen or a disabled person under their roof.
Several House Democrats say they have a personal stake with food stamps.
"This is personal for me," Woolsey says. "When my husband walked out on us, My paycheck wasn't enough. I enrolled in the food stamp program not because I wanted to, but because I had to."
California Democrat Rep. Joe Baca can share the same experience.
"I received food stamps," Baca said. "I'm not proud of it, but the fact is that I did and that makes me a warrior for those who need it."
South Carolina Democratic Rep. James Clyburn, the Assistant Democratic Leader, says his experience as a public school teacher impacts the way he views the need for school food assistance programs.
"I know what it is to try and teach world history when you know the students in front of you did not eat breakfast," Clyburn says." We are here to clothe the naked, to feed the hungry, to do for those who cannot do for themselves. To set ourselves up as protectors of the wealthy and the well to do...is just not what government ought to be about."
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