For all the acrimonious debate over food stamps in the House, it was one Congressman’s amendment, passed in June, that led to the rupture of the traditional farm bill structure of food assistance and agriculture subsidies being rolled into one law.
The provision would have required recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefit to work a minimum of 20 hours per week in order to be eligible.
When Florida GOP Rep. Steve Southerland attached the amendment to the farm bill, he lost support from Democrats who were willing to vote for steep funding cuts to the program, and the historic legislative breakup went forward.
Now, Southerland has been appointed to the conference committee that will help decide the fate of the food stamp program.
Compromise is the goal of such a group, but with the Senate bringing a bill with $4 billion in cuts to the table, and Southerland and his House colleagues backing a food stamp program cut by $39 billion and containing toxic provisions like work requirement, there’s a massive difference between the two versions.
His selection is a combative move by House leadership, and, as Mother Jones notes, a non-traditional pick as well.
Usually, only agriculture committee members negotiate the final farm bill; Southerland is on the leadership committee, not the agriculture committee. His appointment to the committee that's ironing out the final deal is a sign the House intends to fight tooth and nail to keep the deep food stamp cuts.
When the House passed its food stamp bill last month, Southerland defended the work requirement by referencing Genesis, saying, “God created Adam, placed him in the Garden to work it." Democrat Marcia Fudge (D-OH), countered that the bible mentions the “poor and hungry over 200 times,” according to a Politico report.
Fudge, Congressional Black Caucus chair and a major proponent of the food stamp program, will represent House Democrats in the conference committee.