According to two Republican members who were present at Speaker Mike Johnson’s closed-door meeting this week, Johnson quietly indicated that Republicans may not succeed in further reducing the nation’s enormous food aid programme for low-income Americans.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s (SNAP) reduction has been a primary aim for Johnson and other far-right Republicans. Some of Johnson’s fellow Republicans are pushing the new speaker to secure significant new limitations and expenditure cutbacks across SNAP in the upcoming farm bill reauthorization, so his decision to back off some of the House GOP’s most severe ideas for the programme sets up a potential battle with those Republicans.
According to Republican politicians who requested anonymity to discuss private party matters, Johnson made the comments during a meeting with the Republican Governance group on Tuesday.
A wide spectrum of GOP legislators facing tough reelection campaigns have said they won’t support any new moves to scale back SNAP this Congress, after Republicans obtained stricter work requirements for recipients in the debt ceiling deal with President Joe Biden in May. There is a fight forming inside the Republican party, and it might put pressure on the most vulnerable lawmakers who won close districts to help the GOP take control of the House.
Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-N.Y.), one of 18 House Republicans running in a district Biden won, reportedly informed Johnson during their Tuesday discussion that the new SNAP restrictions were the utmost that Republicans could go in trimming back SNAP this Congress.
Johnson said that it was possible that this would turn out to be the case. He implied that the various factions of the House GOP had reached a consensus on the SNAP provisions in the debt agreement, which he stated had been the subject of heated negotiations.
A representative for Johnson declined to comment. In a statement sent in response to a request for comment, Molinaro said that he was “happy” with the “progress” Republicans had made with SNAP and that they had “recognised that in a bipartisan government we would need to get buy-in from Democrats and Republicans.”
The majority of the farm bill’s programmes will cease at the beginning of 2024, and time is running out to renew them. Funding for agribusiness, food banks, and rural America are all part of this huge package. Currently, politicians from agricultural states are lobbying for a temporary extension of the 2018 farm bill while they work out the kinks in the next one.
This week, Johnson admitted not only the political difficulties within his own diverse conference, but also the realities of a Democratic-majority Senate. According to insiders, there are Democrats in the Senate who are “hell-bent” on stopping any additional restrictions from the GOP on food aid in this Congress.
As vice chair of the House GOP conference in May, Johnson recognised this obstacle on the political front. Restrictions on food stamps that the Republicans negotiated as part of the debt accord, he told reporters, “would not have passed through a Chuck Schumer controlled Senate on their own.”
Despite these warnings, many conservative House Republicans continue to put pressure on Johnson to bring about what they see as conservative victories with regard to SNAP.
Mo. freshman Rep. Eric Burlison, a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, said he recently voiced concern to the new speaker about the possibility that key Republicans, including some drafting the farm bill, are less willing to push steeper SNAP restrictions, which could lead to a backlash from Democrats and ultimately sink the House’s farm bill.
Burlison added that he and other Republicans who are pushing for more drastic changes to SNAP had informed House Agriculture Chair G.T. Thompson (R-Pa.) and his staff.
Burlison has stated that he is fine with the bill being passed without his support. To paraphrase: “But if they want my vote, then I’m asking that they consider [my] perspective.”