House Republicans voted to pass a bill Thursday cutting spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – known mainly as food stamps – by $39 billion over 10 years. This would result in a loss of benefits for 3.8 million people in 2014, according to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office. The vote was 217-210, and no Democrats voted for the measure.
The bill now goes to the Senate, where the cuts are not expected to be as deep. Republican leaders who support the bill say this is necessary to eliminate loopholes which have allowed those who are not eligible to receive the benefits.
Not all House Republicans agreed with the legislation. “Against the whole backdrop of a government shutdown, I just think it’s too much,” said New York Rep. Peter King, according to NBC News.
Congressman Xavier Becerra, Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, released a statement following the vote.
“Hunger is not a game,” stated Becerra, adding that “nearly 4 million Americans, including children, seniors and veterans, would lose their food assistance if this callous legislation ever became law.”
Janet Murguía, President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, said in a statement that “on out of every six Americans currently uses SNAP, with Latinos accounting for about 17 percent of participants. The program is a critical buffer from hunger for children, especially Latino children.”
But Republican lawmakers have spoken out in defense of their proposed cuts.
“The arguments you will hear from the other side are just theatrics,” said Rep. Michael Conaway, R-TX, according to Politico. “We are not talking about eliminating the entire SNAP program. We’re committed to finding solutions that work with the resources we actually have.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-VA, said, “The reforms made by this bill will put people on the path to self-sufficiency and independence.”