The Corner

House GOP Strikes Food Stamps Pact

A group of House Republicans led by Majority Leader Eric Cantor has agreed on a revision to the food stamps portion of the farm bill that Cantor believes will broadly unite the GOP conference.

A senior Republican aide tells National Review Online the group has found a relatively limited change to food-stamp work requirements that could net $20 billion in savings, doubling the spending reductions of the overall bill.

As part of welfare reform in 1996, able-bodied adults without dependents (i.e., kids) are required to engage in work activities for at least 20 hours a week or are subjected to a food-stamp time limit of three months out of every three years.

However, a provision in the law allows states to apply for a waiver to this requirement, and 40 states and Washington, D.C., have received such a waiver.

President Obama’s stimulus law in 2009 actually provided a nationwide waiver for this requirement, and since that expired, the waiver has been awarded generously. In the meantime, that group of food-stamp recipients has spiked from 6.6 percent of all food-stamp recipients in 2007 to 9.7 percent of beneficiaries in 2010, the last year numbers are available. There are 4 million people who fit this category.

Cantor and House Agriculture Committee chairman Frank Lucas arrived at the solution after meeting together weekly with a group of over 20 members that formed a “cross-section” of the GOP conference, according to the aide. The provision, which is currently being drafted into legislative language, does not have an official Congressional Budget Office score yet, but top GOP policy hands are confident at the surprisingly robust savings it could provide.