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Aide: Food stamp cut likely to be settled at highest levels

President Barack ObamaRep. John Boehner_R-Ohio
President Barack Obama, Rep. John Boehner


Any decision to cut food stamps as part of legislation that would deal with the impending “fiscal cliff” and include a new farm bill is likely to be made by President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, a key congressional aide told The Hagstrom Report on Monday.

While the House and Senate agriculture committees are expected to make the final decisions on the farm program, “we’ve always thought nutrition would be an Obama-Boehner level decision,” the aide said.

On Monday Boehner and other House Republican leaders sent a letter to the president that included the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) in a list of programs they would propose to cut. The letter also said there should be $300 billion in cuts to mandatory programs, but did not list what programs should be included.

Farm subsidies and some conservation programs as well as SNAP are mandatory programs. In appearances on the Sunday talk shows, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner included farm subsidies when he described the Obama administration’s proposed cuts.

Boehner suggested that Democrats should accept the budget resolution that the House passed last year, but that resolution included a much more radical proposal for food stamps than the $16.5 billion proposal that was in the House Agriculture Committee-passed farm bill. The budget resolution proposed capping the amount that the federal government would spend on food stamps and turning the program over to the states.

The Senate-passed farm bill would cut food stamps by $4.5 billion, and the Obama administration has opposed all cuts to food stamps.

Boehner offered $800 million in new revenue, compared to the White House proposal to increase revenue by $1.6 billion. The White House rejected Boehner's proposal, just as Boehner rejected Obama’s proposal.

“The Republican letter released today does not meet the test of balance,” White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said. “Their plan includes nothing new and provides no details on which deductions they would eliminate, which loopholes they will close, or which Medicare savings they would achieve."

The National Journal noted Monday that the next step is up to the White House, and that if Obama does not make a counter-offer quickly it will be a signal that the Democrats “are working to push Republicans to the edge of the cliff in hopes they will relent.”

A Democratic Senate aide said on Monday that it could be two weeks before the posturing ends and the real negotiations begin, according to the National Journal report.