Democrats failed on Wednesday to block Republican attempts to cut billions of dollars in food assistance to poor American families, having earlier denounced the plans as an “abomination” and “immoral”.
The Republicans included the $16bn cut to the food stamp programme over the next decade as part of a five-year farm bill debated in the House of Representatives agricultural committee. Democrats submitted an amendment to prevent the cuts but lost in a vote after a heated debate in which some members of Congress said more than 2 million people would lose food assistance under the programme formally called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programme (Snap).
“You need to think of that child out there that’s going to go hungry,” said Democratic congressman David Scott. “This right here is the meanest cut of all. It’s un-American. Twenty percent of my home state of Georgia is on Snap. Can you imagine what a $16bn cut will do?”
The Republican move appears to be intended in part to highlight Republican disparagement of Barack Obama as the “food stamp president” because record numbers of Americans now claim the benefit, doubling the cost of the programme since 2008 to $80bn a year. More than 46 million Americans receive food stamps, nearly half of them children.
The agricultural committee chairman, Frank Lucas, justified the cuts in part by claiming that the system had been manipulated by some US states so the federal government provided food to households not entitled to assistance.