The newly passed Farm Bill, which includes an $8.7 billion cut to food stamps, received bipartisan support and now awaits President Obama‘s signature.
“We are pleased by the progress that we’ve seen,” Carney said last week of deliberations on the bill. “As you know, the president made clear last fall that this was something that he believed Congress needed to and could act in a bipartisan way to get done. Obviously we’re not there yet. Final legislation has not reached his desk. So we await that happening and hope it does. If the bill, as it is currently designed, reaches his desk, he would sign it.”
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In a statement released shortly after the Senate approved the law, President Obama applauded the “strong bipartisan vote.”
“As with any compromise, the Farm Bill isn’t perfect – but on the whole, it will make a positive difference not only for the rural economies that grow America’s food, but for our nation,” he said.
Members of the House had previously proposed a cut of either $20.5 billion or $39 billion to food stamps. Obama threatened to veto both of those proposals, but he has been silent regarding the impending $8.7 billion cut.
Only 15 states, plus Washington, D.C., will be affected by that cut, which targets a specific state-level policy sometimes used to calculate food stamp benefits. Up to 30% of the cuts could come out of New York state alone. New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand voted against the bill Tuesday.
As previously reported by NewsOne, doctors are warning that if Congress cuts food stamps, the federal government could be socked with bigger health bills. Maybe not immediately, they say, but over time if the poor wind up in doctors’ offices or hospitals as a result.
Among the health risks of hunger are spiked rates of diabetes and developmental problems for young children down the road.
The doctors’ lobbying effort comes as Congress is working on a compromise farm bill that’s certain to include food stamp cuts. Republicans want heftier reductions than do Democrats in yet another partisan battle over the government’s role in helping poor Americans.
Food stamps, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, feed 1 in 7 Americans and cost almost $80 billion a year, twice what it cost five years ago. Conservatives say the program spiraled out of control as the economy struggled and the costs are not sustainable. They say the neediest people will not go hungry.
The health and financial risks of hunger have not played a major role in the debate. But the medical community says cutting food aid could backfire through higher Medicaid and Medicare costs.
“If you’re interested in saving health care costs, the dumbest thing you can do is cut nutrition,” said Dr. Deborah Frank of Boston Medical Center, who founded the Children’s HealthWatch pediatric research institute.