Trump sides with House on farm bill work requirement fight

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is siding with House Republicans in the showdown over work requirements for food stamp recipients, adding a new wrinkle to difficult negotiations that are set to begin this fall.

Trump on Thursday tweeted that he hopes lawmakers "will be able to leave the WORK REQUIREMENTS FOR FOOD STAMPS PROVISION that the House approved" in the final version of the legislation.

"Senate should go to 51 votes!" Trump tweeted, reiterating his position that Senate Republicans should abolish the filibuster for legislation. Republicans have rejected the idea, leaving the 60-vote hurdle in place for most bills.

The House and Senate are preparing to begin formal negotiations on the farm bill after Labor Day. The House measure significantly tightens work requirements for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, while the Senate version largely leaves the program alone.

The House passed its version of the farm bill in June on its second go-around, after a group of GOP lawmakers initially blocked its passage over an unrelated immigration issue.

Currently, able-bodied adults ages 18-49 without children are required to work 20 hours a week to maintain their SNAP benefits. The House bill raises the age of recipients subject to work requirements from 49 to 59 and requires parents with children older than 6 to work or participate in job training. The measure also limits circumstances under which families who qualify for other poverty programs can automatically be eligible for SNAP, and earmarks $1 billion to expand work training programs. By contrast, the Senate bill was bipartisan, offering modest adjustments to existing farm programs and making no changes to SNAP.

The House bill, which did not receive a single Democratic vote, is consistent with the Trump administration's priorities. Earlier this year, Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to enforce existing work requirements and review all programs, waivers and exemptions.

House Speaker Paul Ryan has made clear he wants the stronger work requirements to be part of the final farm bill.

"We feel very strongly about our position," he said in a July news conference.

But Senate leaders say such provisions won't pass their chamber.

At an event in Louisville, Ky., last month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he thinks House GOP members "understand that the level of work requirement in the House bill, which turned it into a totally partisan bill in the House, wouldn't pass the Senate."

McConnell said he personally supports work requirements, but added that "we can't pass that in the Senate. And in order to make a law, we have to pass the House and Senate."

The Republican leader said he's "optimistic that the bill, in the end, will look a lot more like the Senate version."

Farm bill programs expire on Sept. 30 unless Congress acts. The programs include crop insurance and land conservation.


Associated Press Writer Bruce Schreiner in Louisville, Kentucky, contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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