House Dems decry Trump’s food stamp cuts: ‘Ebenezer Scrooge would be proud’

House Democrats speak against food stamp cuts
U.S. House Democrats speak against proposed food stamp cuts outside the Agriculture Department headquarters. (Photo by Robin Bravender)
House Democrats speak against food stamp cuts
U.S. House Democrats speak against proposed food stamp cuts outside the Agriculture Department headquarters. (Photo by Robin Bravender)

WASHINGTON — The morning after they voted to impeach President Donald Trump, a group of U.S. House Democrats gathered outside of the Agriculture Department’s headquarters to berate the administration for a policy that’s expected to knock about 700,000 people off food stamp benefits nationwide.

As about a dozen House lawmakers huddled against the cold, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) urged those in the crowd to “think about a person that’s hungry today” and “people who are sleeping on the streets and not knowing where their next meal is going to come from.” 

The Democrats assembled outside USDA to protest a Trump administration rule that would tighten food stamp eligibility requirements by limiting states’ ability to grant waivers that extend benefits in areas with high unemployment. The administration estimates that about 688,000 people nationwide will lose access to nutrition benefits under the new regulation.

Combined with two other pending rules to restrict eligibility for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, the policies could lead to 3.7 million fewer people receiving food stamp benefits, according to an analysis by the Urban Institute.

That analysis estimates the rule could knock more than 30,000 Nevadans off food stamp benefits.

Nevada Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford, who joined the group Thursday, has said the new rule reflects the administration’s “shocking and inhumane disregard for the health and well-being of millions of Americans and 129,078 Nevada households who rely on SNAP benefits to put food on the table. The truth is many SNAP recipients are either attempting to find work or face hardships that prevent them from doing so. This administration would rather demonize them than help them.”

When the rule was finalized earlier this month, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue called it an effort to “move more able-bodied” food stamp recipients “towards self-sufficiency” and into employment. “We need to encourage people by giving them a helping hand but not allowing it to become an indefinitely giving hand,” said Perdue, a former Republican governor of Georgia. 

Georgia Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson, who joined his colleagues at the press conference, said afterward that the administration is “hell bent on exacting pain on suffering people and it’s heartless.” 

Rep. Sanford Bishop, another Georgia Democrat, called the food stamp policy “an abomination that only serves to punish our most vulnerable citizens who are working hard to support themselves and their families.” 

He added, “Ebeneezer Scrooge would be proud. Let’s overturn this rule.” 

The new policy, finalized earlier this month, is set to take effect on April 1.

House Democrats have introduced legislation that aims to block the policy by cutting off funding for the implementation of the rule.

Robin Bravender
Robin Bravender is the Washington, D.C., bureau chief for States Newsroom, a network of state-based nonprofit news outlets that includes Nevada Current.