House Republicans took a break from threatening to destroy the economy today, focusing their efforts instead on slashing food stamp availability for poor Americans. The legislation, which would have the effect of kicking almost 4 million Americans off of food stamps, passed narrowly on a 217-210 vote, and stands no chance of becoming law.
The legislation cuts funding for food stamps by $39 billion over the course of ten years, in part by enacting stricter eligibility requirements and eliminating an existing law that allows states to continue providing recipients with benefits after three months. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, 3.8 million Americans will lose their benefits if the bill becomes law.
Still, John Boehner has to throw some red meat to his wily Tea Party underlings every now and again, especially before the inevitable moment where he breaks it to them that their tireless push to defund ObamaCare is doomed to fail. Considering that the last version of this food stamp legislation failed a House vote because it wasn’t draconian enough—it only cut food stamps by $20 billion!—Boehner may not have had much of a choice but to let his more conservative caucus members get this vote out of their system.
It’s worth noting, by the way, that these sorts of cuts are severe even by traditional Republican standards. The National Review, hardly a Marxist publication, has called GOP attempts to cut food stamps “the most baffling political move of the year,” and accused the party of making “the taking of food from the mouths of the genuinely hungry a top priority.”
The bill was crafted largely by Eric Cantor, and gained the support of all but 15 Republicans. Every Democrat opposed it.