WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today called on the Senate to go on record against cutting food assistance to low-income Americans in budget legislation set to go to a House-Senate conference committee. House and Senate negotiators are currently working to reconcile differences between House and Senate budget bills in hopes of sending a final bill to the President before Christmas. While the Senate budget bill did not include cuts to food assistance programs, House Republicans included provisions in their version that would cut eligibility for federal food assistance for over 250,000 individuals. Most of the people who would lose eligibility are low-income families with children and legal immigrants. House cuts to food assistance come on the heels of an administration report finding the number of Americans experiencing food insecurity has increased by seven million since 1999.

“As more and more in the United States are struggling to meet their families’ nutritional needs, it would be unconscionable for this Congress to respond by cutting food aid to low-income Americans,” Harkin said. “No American should live in the shadow of hunger at the dawn of the 21st century. That Congress could mark the holidays by actually taking steps to make this situation even worse would be unthinkable.”

The Harkin measure, offered with Senator Gordon Smith (R-OH), instructs House and Senate budget negotiators to reject cuts to food assistance for low-income Americans. The Senate bill did not contain such cuts.

Congressional budget cuts are being considered at the same time that both the House and Senate are considering extending tax cuts for the country’s wealthiest. Despite descriptions of the budget process as necessary to reduce the federal deficit, the cost of proposed tax cuts exceeds budgetary savings being considered through cuts to spending programs. As a result, the budget process underway is expected to actually increase, rather than decrease, the federal deficit.

Harkin voted against the Senate resolution calling for cuts through the federal budget and has repeatedly called for Congress to abandon efforts to cut programs serving low and middle income Americans.