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Conservatives deny they seek to cut off food stamps for striking workers' families

Food Stamps, USA flag, silhouette of person AP / CBS

A spokesman for the Republican Study Committee said today that charges that it is seeking to cut off food stamps for families in which a member has gone on strike are a "major mischaracterization of what we're doing."

The liberal blog ThinkProgress last night highlighted a bill from a group of lawmakers affiliated with the Study Committee, a caucus of conservative House Republicans. The bill reads in part: "no member of a family unit shall participate in the food stamp program at any time that any able-bodied work eligible adult member of such household is on strike as defined in the Labor Management Relations Act."

Calling the provision a "stealth attack against union workers," ThinkProgress complained that it "would actually cut off all food stamp benefits to any family where one adult member is engaging in a strike against an employer."

But Brian Straessle, spokesman for the Study Committee, says that's not true.

"If you are eligible for food stamps in February, and you go on strike in March, you are still eligible for the same thing," he told Hotsheet. "All we are saying is going on strike itself does not make you eligible for more benefits."

"We're not in any way saying 'look, don't go on strike,'" he added.

Straessle pointed to language in the bill that follows the section excerpted above, which reads, "Provided, That a family unit shall not lose its eligibility to participate in the food stamp program as a result of one of its members going on strike if the household was eligible immediately prior to such strike, however, such family unit shall not receive an increased allotment as the result of a decrease in the income of the striking member or members of the household."

"All we are saying is going on strike itself does not make you eligible for more benefits," said Straessle.

ThinkProgress acknowledges that language in its post, but writes that "removing entire families from eligibility while a single adult family member is striking would have a chilling effect on workers who are considering going on strike for better wages, benefits, or working conditions."

The bill was introduced by Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who leads the caucus, as well as Reps. Tim Scott (S.C.), Scott Garrett (N.J.), Dan Burton (Ind.), and Louie Gohmert (Texas); it is focused on spending on means-tested welfare programs. (Though ThinkProgress references H.R. 1135, an updated version of the bill has been introduced, H.R. 1167; the relevant language has not been changed.)

The bill, which was reintroduced last week, has not come up for consideration in the GOP-led House. If it is considered and passed it would face long odds in the Senate, where Democrats hold a majority.

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