A multi-trillion dollar farm bill stalled in the House of Representatives after Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) proposed an amendment that would further cut Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funding. The Southerland amendment, would have drastically altered the eligibility requirements for those seeking food stamps by adding more stringent work requirements.
The short-sighted amendment fails to recognize that an overwhelming number of food stamp recipients are children and the non-working elderly. This addition of the Southerland amendment had some Democrats vexed as to why the GOP would add such a toxic amendment to an already unpopular bill and vote for it. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that she “can’t get over the fact that 58 Republicans voted for an amendment that would sink the bill. It’s a stunning thing. Why would you give people an amendment that’s going to kill your bill, and then go blame it on somebody.”
House Republicans blamed the bill’s stall on House Democrats because, initially, about 40 Democratic votes were supposed to vote in favor of the bill, that is, until the Southerland amendment. After the amendment’s proposal, the Democrats pulled a “rope-a-dope” of sorts and reneged on the initial arrangement of voting for the farm bill.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) fired back at the Democrats saying “The Democrats told us clearly right before the vote that they knew that the Southerland amendment was going to pass, and they decided at the last minute . . . to pull their support. This was a complete collapse of professionalism and maturity on the Democratic Party’s part.”
The provisions that shot the bill dead were the stipulation that “more SNAP beneficiaries sign up for training programs on pain of losing benefits. But Democrats noted there was no funding for training.” The amendment also didn’t state any “restrictions on how states could use money they saved, allowing them to shift it away from employment programs.” Democratic representatives viewed the provision as too prone to exploitation, making it possible for states to misappropriate funds.
No matter the reason that Democrats have for disliking the Southerland amendment, by crashing the farm bill, they’ve prevented massive and devastating cuts to an essential program that helps millions of people to eat every day.
Joshua de Leon is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.