Posted by: JanF | September 18, 2013

A Coalition of the Caring

This week Congress will vote on the Food Stamps (SNAP) part of the farm bill, the piece split off from the regular farm bill a couple of months ago because it was not mean enough for teaparty Republicans.

So this new bill is meaner than the old bill in the hopes that will pick up the votes needed to pass it. Sigh.

The math needed to cobble together a Coalition of the Meanspirited:

Cantor needs 217 votes to pass the bill, and he has 233 members in his conference. Every member of the House Democratic caucus has signed a letter opposing the cuts, so there is no chance of aisle-crossing on this vote.

First, the five Republicans who voted in June against cuts of any kind seem likely to oppose $39 billion in cuts.

Now House leadership is down to 228 gettable votes. That means they can only lose 11 of the 57 members who voted against $31 billion in food stamps cuts in June. They will likely win some of them back — aides for two of the 57 told TPM that their members would support the Cantor bill — but how many is still a standing question.

On top of that, Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN), who helped Cantor draft the new bill, indicated to the Wall Street Journal this week that some of the more conservative members could still end up opposing the bill because they still aren’t satisfied with the depth of the cuts.

Here is what is at stake – from Think Progress:

What changes are Republicans proposing for food assistance programs? The bill scheduled for a Wednesday vote cuts $40 billion from food stamps over the coming decade. While that is just a 5.2 percent reduction from what the program is projected to spend under current rules, it would affect millions of the most vulnerable people in the country.

Where will the 6 million people who lose nutritional assistance turn for food? Private charities say they will not be able to pick up the slack House conservatives intend to create with the $40 billion cut to food stamps. Food banks and soup kitchens are already stretched beyond their capacity by unusually high poverty and unemployment in the wake of the Great Recession. It is therefore highly likely that hunger will become more common in America than it already is. Currently one in seven families – totaling 49 million people, 8 million of whom are children – face food insecurity. Child hunger is already so common that three in four teachers report that their students show up to class hungry on a regular basis.

Assuming that the House can pass a bill of some sort, it still has to be reconciled with the Senate Farm Bill which was not split into a bill for farmers and a bill for “those people”:

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), who chairs the Agriculture Committee in the upper chamber, has warned that the House’s split approach to the farm bill threatens to undermine the whole of American food policy.

What’s next for people who need help to buy food for themselves and their kids?
– Possible reconciliation with the Senate Bill that cuts “only” $4 billion
– The expiration of some provisions of the Recovery Act of 2009 that means a reduction in benefits of $29 per month.
– Hunger

As our nation runs headlong towards a government shutdown and defaulting on our debt, one has to wonder what it will take to make people wake up to the damage the teaparty ideology is doing not only to our country right now but to our future. Children are showing up at school too hungry to learn and damage is being done to growing bodies from poor nutrition.

We can’t wait until January 2015 and the 114th Congress to feed hungry people. So what can we do?

I suggest we start with the “five Republicans who voted in June against cuts of any kind”. Then we find another 12 Republicans who have read (and understood!) the part of the bible that says that we must feed the hungry. And those 17, together with the 202 House Democrats, can form a Coalition of the Caring who push back forcibly against those who see nothing wrong with letting people go hungry.

Because, really, a great nation does not let its children starve. And it does not sacrifice its future on the altar of a discredited ideology.

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