Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) slammed the Republican-controlled House’s decision to cut food stamps out of the Farm Bill they passed, reserving particularly harsh words for one Congressman’s implication that food stamp recipients were defrauding the government.
On Thursday, House Republicans voted to take the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps, out of the omnibus Farm Bill, which they passed with strengthened subsidies for big agriculture. Though some Republicans argued that they would pass a separate bill to fund food stamps, poverty experts believe that separating SNAP from the Farm Bill would more likely lead to significant cuts.
Senator Durbin noted that Republicans had failed to pass a workable Farm Bill twice now in two years. He singled out Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA), who earlier on the program had suggested that there may be “massive fraud” in the food stamp program, for harsh criticism:
When it comes to the Farm Bill, twice now the Senate has passed the Farm Bill by strong bipartisan votes, sent it to the House where it failed because they couldn’t even call a bill and this year when it was called even Republicans wouldn’t vote for it. Now they have stripped out food stamps. I listened to the explanation from Congressman Kelly. He wonders why so many people are receiving assistance — [it’s] because their wages and income are so low, they’re working but they can’t afford to feed their children; elderly people on social security not receiving enough to really keep food in the house. That is a problem we should face squarely. It isn’t a matter of defrauding American taxpayers, it’s reflection on the weakness in our economy for a lot of hard working families.
SNAP kept 4.7 million people from falling into poverty in 2011 alone, and its has one of the lowest fraud rates (about one cent on the dollar) of any major federal program.