Earlier this week, the Minnesota Senate passed a bill providing free breakfast and lunch to all schoolchildren in the state. Obviously, that was good news, but it didn’t come without resistance from the state’s Republican senators, 26 of whom voted against the bill and one of whom argued that because he has never personally met anyone who doesn’t have enough food to eat, they must not exist. Was this a shocking display of cruelty? Yes. Is such cruelty of pervasive feature of the Republican Party? Also yes.
HuffPost reports that congressional Republicans have recently “signaled they want to cut federal programs that help low-income Americans buy food and go to the doctor.” On Tuesday, Representative Dusty Johnson introduced legislation to expand “work requirements” for eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a.k.a. SNAP, a.k.a. food stamps. The federal program helps more than 20 million low-income households buy food, but apparently Johnson doesn’t think low-income households are working hard enough to deserve that food. While the program currently requires able-bodied adults under 50 without dependents to work at least 20 hours a week, the congressman wants people to have to work until their early 60s (to be able to eat). He also wants to reduce states’ abilities to make exceptions as they see fit. “Work is the best pathway out of poverty,” Johnson declared in a press release. “With more than 11 million open jobs, there are plenty of opportunities for SNAP recipients to escape poverty and build a better life.”
Meanwhile, Representative Chip Roy has said the House Freedom Caucus—an extremely conservative faction of House Republicans that Speaker Kevin McCarthy is currently beholden to—would also like to see work requirements for Medicaid, the federal program that provides health care for low-income households.
As HuffPost notes, all of this comes as Republicans are in a battle with Joe Biden over spending, with the GOP threatening to hold up an increase to the government’s borrowing limit if the president doesn‘t bow to its demands. Should the government be unable to borrow money, it would not be able to pay its bills, and a default would likely lead to a massive financial crisis. So Biden is in a not-great spot.
As for the cuts Republicans are calling for, HuffPost also points out that tightening “eligibility for a relatively small number of SNAP recipients wouldn’t have much effect on the federal budget, since the entire SNAP program amounts to about 2% of U.S. annual spending.” And yet, you know who it would have a big effect on? The people who would suddenly be unable to eat.