The House Appropriations Committee has scheduled a meeting this morning on a money bill to rescue the food stamp program, which faces suspension June 1 unless additional funds are provided in the next couple of weeks.
The committee plans to act on an omnibus supplemental bill providing $16 billion needed to carry a long list of federal programs to the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30. They include disaster relief funds, black lung benefits, the space shuttle program and $2.5 billion for food stamps.
An attempt to start a smaller supplemental moving last week was called off after Budget Committee Chairman Robert Giaimo (D-Conn.) protested that congressional action now would violate the Budget Act because spending has already broken through this year's agreed-upon spending ceiling. He insisted, and the committee agreed to hold up until action is completed on the budget resolution now working its way through Congress, which raises this year's ceiling to meet these extra needs.
House leaders hope to get a House vote on the big supplemental next Thursday, through this may not permit time for the budget resolution to clear Congress in final form. Secretary of Agriculture Bob Bergland has said that unless the money is available by next Thursday he must order the program suspended as of June 1. But House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill said yesterday that decision could wait until May 24.
"If we can settle the Federal Trade Commission dispute, we can find a way to get the food stamp money without having the program stopped," said O'Neill.
Before voting the extra money for food stamps. Congress must pass a bill authorizing the increase. The House started debating that measure yesterday.