WASHINGTON — House Republican leaders scrambled Thursday to line up support in advance of a late-afternoon vote on legislation that would cut nearly $4 billion a year from the food stamp program, now used by 1 in 7 Americans.
Some GOP moderates questioned the 5 percent cut to the almost $80 billion-a-year program as Democrats united strongly against it.
The bill's savings would be achieved by allowing states to put broad new work requirements in place for many food stamp recipients and to test applicants for drugs. The bill also would end government waivers that have allowed able-bodied adults who don't have dependents to receive food stamps indefinitely.
House conservatives, led by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., have said the program has become bloated. More than 47 million Americans are now on food stamps, and the program's cost more than doubled in the last five years as the economy struggled through the Great Recession. Democrats said the rise in the rolls during tough economic times showed the program was doing its job.
Finding a compromise — and the votes — to scale back the feeding program has been difficult. Conservatives have insisted on larger cuts, Democrats have opposed any cuts and moderate Republicans from areas with high food stamp usage have been wary of efforts to slim the program.
"I think the cuts are too drastic and too draconian," said Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., who plans to vote against the bill. He represents Staten Island, which was hard hit by Hurricane Sandy last year. "Those that really need the program will suffer," he said.
Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, also plans a "no" vote, according to his spokesman, Michael Anderson. He said Young is concerned about the impact the cuts could have on people in his state's poorest, most rural areas.