The House Agriculture Committee rejected an effort Tuesday by some Republicans to include food stamps in the welfare programs that House GOP leaders want to turn over to the states.
But even though most Republicans want to keep the $27 billion food stamp program under federal jurisdiction, the Clinton administration said the GOP’s proposed redesign of it threatens the health of needy Americans as well as farmers.
Taking up the final piece of the House GOP’s welfare reform blueprint, the agriculture committee voted 37-5 against including food stamps in the block grants that would replace federal cash welfare, foster care, child care and other nutrition programs.
A scheduled vote Tuesday on those other programs by the House Ways and Means Committee was postponed until later in the week.
However, the panel voted in favor of toughening penalties for food stamp fraud, including permanently disqualifying from the program any grocers found to have engaged in it.
President Clinton attacked the overall GOP welfare legislation package in a speech Tuesday, saying it doesn’t do enough to help welfare recipients find work when their cash benefits end after five years.
“When people just get cut off without going to work, you know where they’re likely to end up, don’t you? On your doorstep,” Clinton told county officials. “That’s not welfare reform. That’s just shifting the problem.”
One in 10 Americans - 27 million in all - receive food stamps.
The bill would hold automatic cost-of-living adjustments in food stamp benefits to 2 percent a year, replacing a system that bases increases on inflation.
The legislation also would bar most legal immigrants from receiving food stamps, and would tighten eligibility rules for low-income families.
Acting Agriculture Secretary Richard E. Rominger said a $16 billion cut in food stamp spending could lower retail food sales by $3 billion to $7 billion over five years.
“As food spending declines, the loss in sales would affect earnings of food manufacturing and distribution firms. Agricultural producers would suffer decreases in gross farm income as farm prices and food sales decline,” Rominger said.
Rep. Harold L. Volkmer, D-Mo., said the GOP’s plan would take millions of children off the food stamp rolls.
“They’re taking food right out of kids’ mouths and giving it to the wealthy,” said Volkmer, repeating a frequent charge from Democrats who contend the GOP needs the savings from welfare reform to finance tax cuts for the rich.