House GOP Puts Food Aid, Food Safety on Chopping Block

| Fri Jun. 17, 2011 12:44 PM PDT

Democrats and Republicans still need to hammer out a grand bargain to raise the debt ceiling and fund the government next year. But it seems increasingly likely that major budget cuts are going to be part of the mix, and Republicans sound bullish about what's to come. Nothing's official yet, but top Republicans claim the deal will include "a package of immediate and specific budget cuts; budget caps reaching out five years to reassure conservatives that tough budget decisions will be made in the future; Medicare reforms short of the House approach; no tax increases," according to the Washington Post's Michael Gerson.

Depending on the magnitude of these cuts, it could be a big win for the Republicans. And while party leaders have been hashing out the particulars behind closed doors, the GOP has already set the goal posts for where they'd like to start cutting back. On Thursday, the GOP-led House passed a bill, 217-203, that slashes money for needy mothers and children, among others. The AP reports:

A spending bill to fund the nation’s food and farm programs would cut the Women, Infants and Children program, which offers food aid and educational support for low-income mothers and their children, by $868 million, or 13 percent. An international food assistance program that provides emergency aid and agricultural development would drop by more than $450 million, one-third of the program’s budget.

According to anti-hunger advocates, the cuts to emergency food assistance alone would affect about 320,000 women and children, the Post's Lyndsey Layton reports. Layton also notes that the spending bill that passed also slashed $87 million from food safety inspections for meat, poultry, and dairy, which a House committee had first green-lighted last month.

The Democrat-controlled Senate will try to restore many of these cuts, but the House GOP has laid down the first marker. With major entitlement reform unlikely, the White House and congressional Democrats may be forced to acquiesce increasingly on these kinds of spending cuts to come to a deal.

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