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Dems warn Biden against toughening aid for the poor

STORY: Frustration is beginning to mount for Democrats in the U.S. Congress over fears President Joe Biden might agree to Republican demands that could limit access to food aid for struggling Americans.

House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries on Thursday made plain his opposition to such measures:

“We've continued to make clear as House Democrats that so-called extreme work requirements that these MAGA Republicans want to try to impose as a ransom note are a non-starter, period, full stop. “

Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is demanding government spending cuts in exchange for raising the government's borrowing limit, also known as the debt ceiling.

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Without a measure permitting the U.S. to raise more revenue, the U.S. Treasury has said the government could run out of funds by the end of the month and fail to pay interest on its debt.

Republicans have called for saving $120 billion by expanding work requirements to qualify for food aid, monetary help for poor families and other assistance.

But Biden on Wednesday reiterated his opposition to imposing new requirements for the Medicaid program for low-income Americans.

BIDEN ON (5/18): "I'm not going to accept any work requirements that's going to impact on medical health needs of people. I'm not going to accept any work requirements that go much beyond what is already.”

Liberal Democrats, including Senator Raphael Warnock and Representative Ro Khanna, also put Biden on notice that they do not support more stringent requirements to existing law.

Biden and McCarthy have said they are optimistic they can reach a deal, but Democrats in the president's own party have begun to worry about potential cuts to what they see as crucial benefits programs. One such compromise might be new requirements to show employment in order to receive what are commonly called food stamps, or SNAP benefits.

Jeffries said Republicans had in the past opposed such work requirements and should abandon them now.

“...in 2018. 145 House Republicans voted against so-called work requirements in an amendment to the farm bill. That would have imposed such requirements on SNAP recipients. 145 Republicans, including the current speaker of the House."

The USDA estimates an additional 1 million low-income older adults would be subject to SNAP time limits and, as a result, could lose vital food benefits if expanded work requirements were implemented.

While some Democrats might balk at the concessions, some Republicans might refuse the compromise.

It's unclear whether McCarthy can deliver enough votes to raise the debt ceiling from hard-line members of his own caucus.