Commentary: A Hard-Hearted House of Representatives

The vote in Congress to cut food stamps is a sign of a level of heartlessness that is nothing short of breathtaking.

Posted: 09/20/2013 11:15 AM EDT

There is something uncommonly callous about the Republican Party. It is characterized by a disdain for people who are living within the marginalized terrain of America. It is an unfeeling group that is quite comfortable seeking to make voting more difficult for many Americans, to deny health coverage to the most vulnerable or maintaining roadblocks to citizenship.

There is no example of this callousness that is more stark and shameful than the vote taken this week by Speaker John Boehner and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to cut roughly $4 billion from the food stamp provisions, a 5 percent reduction.

The cuts were designed to appease conservatives in the House of Representatives, who were dissatisfied with more moderate reductions in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program earlier this year. The bill is not likely to have any success in the Senate and President Obama has made clear his plans to veto the bill should it ever come to his desk.

Still, it is a disturbing litmus test of just how cold-hearted the conservative-led Republicans in the House can be.

"These cuts would affect a broad array of Americans who are struggling to make ends meet, including working families with children, senior citizens, veterans and adults who are still looking for work," the White House said in a statement on the bill. And that is but the short of it.

In an era where the nation’s gradual economic recovery is not being felt by millions of Americans, food stamps represent an important safety net in the ever-difficult challenge of making ends meet.

The Republicans’ bill would cause some 3 million Americans to lose their food stamp benefits with nearly another 1 million having their benefits slashed, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The bill would not just affect struggling Black and Latino homes but also poor white families, the elderly of all races and even veterans who are barely above the poverty line. It will affect the nutritional needs of poor hungry children and seniors.

But cold-heartedness of the Republican bill extends even further. It would require more people who receive food stamps to pass income and asset tests to prove their poverty. Furthermore, it would allow states to require drug tests. It would allow states to deny benefits to able-bodied adults who don't work or enroll in training for at least 20 hours per week.

Hopefully, the nation will become increasingly aware of how unfeeling the Republican leadership can be. The conservative-leaning House feels content to shave the food stamp program in an age when the ranks of the working poor and others are growing. Hopefully, none of this should be lost on the American people as the nation prepares for the all-important 2014 midterm election.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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