Proposals to reduce the program have ranged from what was in the original farm bill, a 3 percent cut and changes in eligibility, to an overhaul of the program that would take a fraction of the federal money now spent and give it to the states to administer. Others have proposed putting an expiration date on the program, which is now permanent, so Congress would have to take a look at it every few years.
Republicans have already supported an amendment to the original farm bill that would have put broad new work requirements on food stamps. Adoption of that amendment caused many Democrats to pull their support for the bill.
Democrats were angry, too, that passage of the pared-back bill appeared to set the stage for higher food stamp cuts in a separate bill. Several Democrats delayed the final vote by forcing procedural votes, and many came to the floor to denounce the legislation passionately.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said to Republicans, "You are taking food out of the mouths of your own poor constituents."
Since the food stamp program doesn't expire, the program is untouched as long as no food aid cuts become law.
Anti-hunger groups are already mobilizing to deflect whatever Republicans propose.
"Republican leadership seems to be coming at the program with malign intent and that's deeply concerning," said James Weill of the Food Research and Action Center. He said they are hoping to rely on the Democratic-led Senate and President Barack Obama, who has also opposed food stamp cuts, to hold off against the House. The White House issued a veto threat against both bills.
A Senate farm bill passed last month would cut around a half a percent from the SNAP program.
The GOP caucus is divided over how much to cut. Many Republicans praised the 3 percent cut to SNAP in the original House farm bill and the changes in eligibility. But others said it didn't go far enough and voted against the bill, leading to the legislation's defeat.