U.S. Democrats warn Biden against toughening aid for the poor – Stock market news

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats in the US Congress have expressed frustration with President Joe Biden’s willingness to engage with Republicans in demanding tougher work requirements for food aid recipients as part of any deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.

They stopped short of threatening to block such moves, as talks on lifting the federal government’s $31.4 trillion borrowing limit turned into a bilateral format between Democrat Biden, Republican Speaker of the -House Kevin McCarthy and their staff.

If Biden and McCarthy reach an agreement, possibly as soon as Sunday, Congress could struggle to get enough votes for passage before June.

Some hardline Republicans may push back against any increase in the debt limit, while some progressive Democrats have expressed opposition to the job limits after spending months calling for a “clean” increase without conditions.

Liberal Democrats, including Senator Raphael Warnock and Representative Ro Khanna, have told Biden they do not support stricter requirements for the existing law.

Khanna, asked if the revisions would prompt him to vote to torpedo a deal, said: “It would be a strong consideration.”

Republicans have called for $120 billion in savings by expanding work requirements to qualify for food aid, cash assistance for poor families and other aid. Biden on Wednesday reiterated his opposition to imposing new Medicaid program requirements for low-income Americans.

He added that there could be “a few” changes in the current law but none “of any consequence”.

Those assurances did not calm the Democrats, as negotiations began to accelerate on spending and the urgent need to increase the borrowing limit.

Warnock accused Republicans of “using poor people as pawns” in the negotiations, saying their proposal “presupposes that poor people are somehow morally deficient. People have to work. And some people can’t .”

Warnock is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which writes the farm bill that funds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps.

A Republican bill that passed the House in late April would place more SNAP work claims on non-disabled or dependent adults up to age 56, instead of the current cutoff of 49.

Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, a House Democrat known for his anti-hunger work, said: “I’m not going to support anything that puts poor people together — period.”

The Republican-controlled House Ways and Means Committee describes the steps as “common sense work requirements to help lift families out of poverty and revitalize the workforce American.”

“Why doesn’t he want to help people out of poverty?” McCarthy told reporters.

A USDA spokesman said expanded work requirements for SNAP would be especially harmful to those “experiencing homelessness or people affected by local economic conditions such as the closing of a major local employer.”

The USDA estimates that an additional million low-income seniors would be subject to SNAP time limits and, as a result, could lose vital food benefits.

Eric Mitchell, the executive director of the nonprofit Alliance to End Hunger, called such requirements “punitive and ineffective” against people who face barriers to employment or community service.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Leah Douglas; Editing by Scott Malone and Aurora Ellis)

By Richard Cowan and Leah Douglas

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