Once again, we have occasion to say: So much for compassionate conservatism.
By a vote of two hundred and seventeen to two hundred and ten, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives has voted to make significant and destructive cuts to SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, colloquially known as food stamps. Their legislation reduces funding for SNAP by $4 billion a year and would permit states (especially Republican-run states) to make drug tests or work requirements a prerequisite for nutritional assistance.
To put their cuts in perspective, the amount of money that would be “saved” annually under this scheme isn’t enough to even buy a third of a new Gerald R. Ford class aircraft carrier (which the United States is committed to building two of).
Republicans are perfectly willing to spend huge amounts of money acquiring guns, tanks, and big ships, but when it comes to taking care of America’s most vulnerable — forget about it. They’d rather use America’s common wealth to buy bombs than help people who have nothing or very little to eat put some food on their table.
It’s just disgraceful. As Patty Murray likes to say, they’ve got the wrong priorities.
Not a single Democrat voted for the bill, and fifteen Republicans voted against it, including Don Young of Alaska, who apparently listened to his conscience prior to casting a vote. The roll call for the Pacific Northwest was as follows:
Voting Aye: Republicans Doc Hastings, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Dave Reichert (WA); Greg Walden (OR); Steve Daines (MT); Raúl Labrador and Mike Simpson (ID)
Voting Nay: Democrats Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Jim McDermott, Denny Heck, and Adam Smith (WA); Suzanne Bonamici, Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader (OR); Republican Don Young (AK)
Not Voting: Republican Jaime Herrera-Beutler (WA)
Many Democrats delivered forceful speeches in opposition to H.R. 3102. Representative Lloyd Doggett of Texas appropriately referred to the legislation as a “let them starve” bill. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered an eloquent, thoughtful speech against the bill, in which she noted:
The Republican proposal on the floor today slashes at, on the legs on which many of these people stand. Indeed, cutting these investments is a full assault on the health and economic security of millions of families. Consider this: one in five children, and it will soon become one in four, but one in five children struggle with hunger and nearly half of all SNAP recipients are children; nearly four million Americans over age 60 rely on nutrition assistance; five thousand active-duty military families, active-duty [military] families rely on SNAP, depend on SNAP; nearly three million veterans and their families don’t get enough to eat each month, and this bill will jeopardize food assistance for as many as 170,000 veterans.
Emphasis is mine.
U.S. Representative Suzan DelBene, who represents NPI’s home congressional district, scolded Republicans for wasting everyone’s time with a scheme to slash SNAP when they know it has no chance of passing the U.S. Senate or being signed into law by President Barack Obama. (The White House has made it plainly clear the bill passed by the Republicans would be vetoed right away).
DelBene’s floor remarks were as follows:
Madam Speaker, we’re debating an extreme bill with no chance of becoming law, when we could be weeks into conferencing a farm bill.
SNAP has prevented millions from falling into poverty. In the western part of Washington state, 690,000 people are still experiencing hunger—and we should not be arbitrarily cutting off aid.
This bill would force states to cut off people struggling to find a job, also stripping them of transportation and childcare assistance. If states don’t comply, they lose funds for SNAP Employment and Training programs, like the model program we have in Washington State that has led many to self-sufficiency.
Even at the height of the recession, 60% in Washington’s programs found employment and more than half were off assistance two years after the program.
House leadership says this bill will lead to more people working. But how does cutting programs proven to help people find jobs accomplish this?
All this bill does is cut the lifeline for 3.8 million hungry American families, children, veterans and seniors.
This bill is not a serious proposal. Vote no.
Thankfully, H.R. 3102 will be dead on arrival in the Senate. Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan has already flatly pronounced the bill dead, calling it a monumental waste of time. We agree. We can’t think of many pieces of legislation that are more deserving of a quick burial than this travesty of a bill.