Food-stamp defenders appealed for two dozen Republican defectors to help kill their party's proposed $40 billion cut in the main U.S. anti-hunger program as a close vote nears later this week in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The reforms pushed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R.-Va.) and fiscal conservatives would end benefits for roughly 10 percent of recipients. They would restrict eligibility for a program that has doubled in enrollment and tripled in cost since 2004.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) told reporters on Tuesday "we do know of several Republicans" who opposed the cuts, but she declined to name them. Republicans control the House 233-200, so Democrats need at least 17 cross-overs to defeat the bill and Republicans need a party-line vote to pass it.
David Beckman, leader of anti-hunger group Bread for the World, said activists were talking to more than 20 Republican lawmakers in the hope of persuading them to oppose the bill. Celebrity chef Tom Colicchio, a leader in the group Food Policy Action, said: "We need 20 House members to do the right thing."
The White House threatened to veto a bill in June that proposed $20 billion in food stamp cuts.
(Read more: Record 46 Million are on food stamps)
"If $20 billion in cuts is unacceptable, $40 billion is doubly unacceptable," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said last week.
Food stamps, which cost $78 billion last year, are the overriding issue in the development of a new farm bill, a year overdue and offering slim hope of passage at present.
The House vote on food stamps could open the door to House-Senate negotiations on a final version of the $500 billion, five-year farm bill, although analysts say it might be hard to write a compromise that will pass Congress. The Senate has voted for $4 billion in food stamp reforms. Both chambers want to expand the taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance system.
(Read more: Democrats bail on Obama as budget battle looms)