Mariel Saez, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor this afternoon in opposition to the significant SNAP cuts included in the farm bill put forward by House Republicans. Below are his remarks and a link to the video:
Click here to watch the video.
“I thank the Gentleman for yielding, and I thank him for his work and I thank Mr. Lucas for his work. We struggle in this Congress to try to bring bipartisan legislation to the Floor. It's a shame. I've normally voted for the farm bill, for reasons I'll express here.
“First of all, the farm bill is an important piece of legislation. It sets federal policy in a range of areas that deeply affect the lives of farmers, their communities, and consumers. But it also makes a huge difference in the lives of those who rely on food assistance to avoid hunger, especially children. It's a shame that we could not consider the farm bill on its merits without undermining its credibility with what we clearly believe are not reforms and not the elimination of waste, fraud, and abuse.
“It's so simple to say that. I've heard that, for all the time I’ve been here in Congress, ‘let's cut out fraud, waste, and abuse.’ Everybody wants to cut out fraud, waste, abuse. But cutting out assistance for hungry people is neither fraud, nor waste, nor abuse. Well, it may be abuse.
“The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP as it's called, protects over 46 million Americans who are at risk of going without sufficient food. Nearly half of those are children. Are there some reforms that are needed? Perhaps. And the Senate has made those reforms in a moderate, considered way. The average monthly benefit per participant last year, according to the USDA, was $133.41. I challenge any Member of this House to live on $133.41 for food – $4.45 a day. Four dollars and 45 cents per day.
“At a time when millions remain out of work, struggling to support themselves and their family as they seek jobs, it would be irresponsible to make the kinds of cuts that are proposed in this bill. No one in the richest country on the face of the Earth should go hungry – in this country. Yet, that's exactly what this bill would do: slashing $20.5 billion from the supplemental nutrition program and putting 2 million Americans – 2 million of our fellow Americans – at risk.
“Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Give shelter to the homeless. That's not a political policy; that's a moral policy. Our faiths teach us that. While we have cut millions in funding in this bill, this Congress has done nothing to advance legislation that will help create jobs or opportunities to help expand our middle class. While it's important that Congress provide certainty to the agricultural community, which I support, this unbalanced bill takes the wrong approach on these cuts to SNAP.
“I'm disappointed. This ought to be a bipartisan bill. Mr. Peterson wants it to be a bipartisan bill, and many of our people, as a matter of fact, the majority of our people, supported it in committee. I think the Chairman wants it to be a bipartisan bill. I understand he has to deal within the framework of his caucus, like every Chairman has to do, on either side of the aisle. I understand that. But it is a shame, in a bill that ought to be bringing us together, for people who provide this country with food and fiber – and indeed provide a lot of the world with food and fiber – that we have put this almost-poison pill – I don't know whether it's going to be a poison pill, but almost-poison pill – in it. I regret that.
“It's not worthy of our country. It's not worthy of the morals of this nation. But I thank the Chairman, and I thank the Ranking Member, for their efforts to try to bring us together. Whether they've done so or not, we'll have to see.”