Ag Policy Blog

House Democrats to Explore Legal Options Against USDA SNAP Rule

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
Connect with Chris:

The Democratic-led House of Representatives is going to "explore all possible legal options" to respond to USDA's proposed rule changing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program work or job-training requirements that USDA announced late last month.

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., the incoming chairman House Rules Committee, released a set of new rules for the House that included a specific provision directing the House Office of General Counsel to look at the changes to SNAP, as well as looking at legal intervention into litigation challenging the legality of any provision of the Affordable Care Act.

USDA proposed a rule in late December that would require people classified as able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) to work or participate in a job training program at least 80 hours a month to be eligible for SNAP benefits for more than three months in a three-year period. Even if the time period is waived, the work or job-training requirements would not be waived. The proposal would also restrict how states can get around this requirement. USDA maintains the proposal would cut federal spending by $15 billion over ten years. The proposed rule is still in a comment period that ends April 9.…

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said USDA was restoring SNAP to its original intent to offer people a second chance, not a way of life.

“Americans are generous people who believe it is their responsibility to help their fellow citizens when they encounter a difficult stretch,” Perdue said. “That is the commitment behind SNAP. But like other federal welfare programs, it was never intended to be a way of life.”

McGovern, who has served on the House Agriculture Committee in recent terms, is one of the House Democrats' staunchest supporters of nutritional programs. McGovern denounced the proposed SNAP changes on the House floor in December.

“Mr. Speaker, I hope that the Secretary of Agriculture and the president are tuning into this debate. Right now, we’ve heard rumors that they’re trying to work behind the scenes to circumvent the will of this Congress by instituting more onerous work requirements administratively. Such a move, I believe, would likely lead to legal action," McGovern said. "And next Congress when Democrats are in the majority, we will use every legislative tool available to block such a move at every turn. We will not tolerate more of their disrespect and more of their callousness toward the more vulnerable in this country. No more beating up on poor people. Period. We will be watching them very closely and if they do anything, and I mean anything to increase hunger in America, we will fight them and that’s a promise.”

Among some other rule changes made by the Democratic-led House, which will require a House floor vote to go into effect:

-The House will establish a Select Committee on the Climate Crisis that would be authorized to hold hearings and provide policy recommendations. The 15-member committee will include nine Democrats and the GOP can choose six members to participate. Policy ideas will have to be sent to relevant committees by March 31, 2020.

-Bills must be posted for review at least 72 hours before going to the House floor for a vote. The previous rule was "third day," which meant a bill could be posted late Monday night and come up for a vote early Wednesday morning.

-Revenue bills (tax bills) would no longer require a 3/5 supermajority of the House to raise taxes.

-The House also reinstates the PAYGO rule from the 111th Congress requiring any bill that increases the deficit or reduces a surplus from the current year requires a comparable bill or measure to offset the costs, unless the bill is deemed as emergency spending.

The full set of House rules can be found at…

Chris Clayton can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN


To comment, please Log In or Join our Community .