(Nov. 22) With the hot button topic of food stamp cuts on the table, House and Senate conferees will tackle a contentious deficit reduction bill in mid-December.

After Congress returns from recess Dec. 12, members and their staffers will try to reconcile $3.6 billion in cuts over five years in agriculture budget spending passed by the House with $3 billion in cuts approved in the Senate. Overall, on Nov. 18 the House voted 217-215 on $50 billion in cuts over five years; the Senate earlier passed a bill that contains $35 billion in cuts over five years.

Politically charged cuts to the federal food stamp program highlighted the House version of the reconciliation bill. The House voted Nov. 18 to cut $700 million from the food stamp program.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that more than 220,000 people would lose food stamp benefits under the House bill. About 70,000 of that number are legal immigrants who have been in the U.S. five to seven years.

One anti-hunger advocate said the cuts were far from a done deal.

“We’re not that good about predicting what will happen, but we’re hoping what we’re going to do will impact the outcome,” said Ellen Vollinger, legal director of the Food Research and Action Center, Washington, D.C.

Calling the House package “terrible,” she said the group would be vigilant in its position that the final reconciliation package has no nutrition cuts.