Committee members then engaged in a predictable series of back-and-forth statements, hewing to party-line positions on all sorts of policies.

At the end of the hearing, California Rep. Joe Baca, voice rising with indignation, pointed out that “we help other countries and are willing to spend all kinds of money on other countries. And we haven’t cut (funds) to other countries. … We see other countries being fed and we’re not feeding our own people right here in the United States. Where are our priorities? They should be for the people right here.”

Baca — whose district contains more than 180,000 households that receive SNAP benefits — then made it even more personal. “Have any of you ever been in a situation where you needed help? Where you needed the SNAP program? Well, I was in that situation. I was struggling and couldn’t make it. My wife couldn’t make it and we had to feed my child. … Thank God we had food stamps.”

He urged the committee to consider such families before passing the proposals. “It’s easy to sit here and cut everybody else, but you aren’t in that damned situation.”

Up to that point, Baca’s barbed comments were accepted quietly by proponents of the SNAP cuts. But when he brought religion into the mix, Peterson’s earlier concerns about widening the partisan divide seemed prophetic.

“From a religious perspective, the Lord has always told to us to watch others and help others,” said Baca. “Love thy neighbor. Take care of that neighbor. If we truly believe in caring about others, we’ll do the right thing because God and the Lord and the churches have asked us.”

Immediately, Florida Rep. Steve Southerland wanted to debate theology. “I hear oftentimes reference to scripture in the Bible from (the Democrats). I cut my teeth on a church pew, all right? I grew up in a Christian home. My father never dropped us off at church, he parked the car and we went in.

“I’m proud to be a born-again Christian. I’m proud of the fact that He’s the Lord of my life. But I know this, sir: nowhere in scripture did God give the instruction to government over us as the individual. I’m just telling you.”

Baca and Southerland began to shout over each other as Lucas banged his gavel.

Baca: “He took care of all the people, as well! When He took the bread and divided the bread and gave bread to everyone who was going hungry…”

Lucas, still banging the gavel, called for order.

Southerland ended comments to Baca sharply, demanding he revisit scripture. “Read it, sir! Don’t take it out of context. He was speaking to individuals, not government.”

Rather than a roll call, the dead-on-arrival legislation was passed by voice vote — likely to provide committee members cover from unhappy constituents.