Mr. LUCAS. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment by the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern).
The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Oklahoma will be recognized.
The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Massachusetts.
Mr. KING of Iowa. Mr. Chairman, I thank the chairman of the Agriculture Committee for yielding, and I want to also thank him for his leadership on this bill.
This is a carefully balanced bill that we have, and I don't challenge the convictions of the gentleman from Massachusetts. We've had enough exchanges on this topic to know that we have a difference of opinion without a difference in disagreeable personalities by any means.
However, when I came to this Congress a little more than a decade ago, I was looking already at this growth in, then, food stamps. The number that I memorized at the time was that there were 19 million people on food stamps. That was a lot of people. Our population hasn't grown so much that it ought to grow to 48 million people. But when we see the expansion of the dependency class in America and you add this to the 79 other means-tested welfare programs that we have in the United States and
each time you add another brick to that wall, it's a barrier to people that might go out and succeed.
We're of the same heart here. We don't want people who need them and people who deserve them to go without SNAP benefits. On the other hand, we don't want to hand these out to people that are gaming the system, so to speak. So we've tightened the qualifications down on SNAP, and we've done so for a number of reasons. One of them is reports of a neon sign up on a tattoo parlor that says, ``We take EBT cards.'' You also have the report of an individual who bailed himself out of jail with an EBT
card. I don't think that we want to borrow money from the Chinese to fund such a thing. I think those people can figure out how to bail themselves out and how to pay for their own tattoos.
Instead, we tighten this down, and it's a savings of $20.5 billion. It was a tough enough negotiation to get to that point. I don't know what the gentleman from Massachusetts would say is enough, and maybe I don't know what I would say is too little. Someplace in between his opinion and mine is where we've settled today on this $20.5 billion that came out of this top line that is roughly 80 percent of the overall benefits that are in this bill.
It's carefully balanced. It's carefully negotiated. It's something that has had the cooperation with the
ranking member, as well. And I think it's an important thing for us to understand that you can't simply be spending advertising dollars out there to sign more people up on food stamps. That's what [Page: H3852]
our Secretary of Agriculture has been doing. In this bill, we eliminate the advertising to sign people up on food stamps. That's a good thing. If people need it, they're going to figure out how to sign up without somebody knocking on their door and advertising
in the newspaper, on the radio, or on the TV.
So we tighten up the system. We keep the resources for the people that need them, and we reduce this to say it's a 2.5 percent reduction in this massive growth from 19 million to 48 million. That's not too much to ask.
Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 30 seconds.
Let me again remind my colleagues that the reason why we've seen an uptick in the number of people registered for SNAP is because we are coming out of this recession, the worst economy we've had since the Great Depression.
The gentleman from Iowa says it's a carefully negotiated, carefully studied compromise. We didn't have a single hearing on it, not in his subcommittee and not in the full committee. And the people we're talking about here are people who are good, honorable, decent Americans who are going to lose their benefit.
The Congressional Budget Office says 2 million people will lose their benefits. These aren't targeted at people who somehow abuse the system. These are just 2 million people who lose their benefits, 200,000 kids off the free breakfast and lunch. That's wrong.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. RIBBLE. Mr. Chairman, I thank Chairman Lucas for yielding.
SNAP is an incredibly important program in the United States. I don't think there's anybody that I've met on my side of the aisle or on theirs--and I particularly appreciate Mr. McGovern's position on the fact that we need to make sure that hungry children in this country get food to eat. We want them to have good, healthy meals.
On behalf of the taxpayer, however, the data doesn't support that we continue to increase funding for SNAP. In fact, if you follow the red line here, that's unemployment in America. You see during the recession unemployment went up, as did SNAP spending. It was almost exactly at the same ratio. And as the economy began to recover and unemployment went down, as did poverty go down, SNAP funding continued to go up. In fact, from 2008 to 2011, SNAP funding went up 119 percent while poverty went
up only 16 percent. Between 2010 and 2011, poverty actually went down while SNAP spending went up.
It's not just an either/or, Mr. Chairman, that we can either provide food for the poor or charge the taxpayer money. We need to do both. But as fiduciaries of the taxpayers' dollars, we must do it reasonably.
We don't want any child to go without food, but we recognize that the economy has begun to recover since 2009, where we were spending only $53 billion on SNAP. ``Only'' is the appropriate word. Today we're going to be spending $82 billion on SNAP. Unemployment went from 10.2 percent in 2009 down to 7.6 percent today. Under this basis, I wonder at what point could we ever have SNAP go down.
Here's the reality. We keep talking about $20 billion. In fact, next year, with a $2 billion cut annually, we won't even roll SNAP back effectively 1 year.
Mr. LUCAS. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from California (Mr. LaMalfa).
Mr. LaMALFA Mr. Chairman, the changes made to SNAP are directed at reducing fraud, not at those in true need. And affecting inefficiencies that we've been dealing with for years, we have a chance to affect those inefficiencies right now in this year's farm bill, not 5 years from now.
Without the changes proposed by the committee, and made with bipartisan support, Congress tells the American people that taxpayers should support fraudulent payments. Are we seriously debating a 2 percent reduction that centers on fraud elimination and ensuring that those we help actually qualify?
This farm bill eliminates advertising for food stamps, eliminates recruitment bonuses and payments to lottery winners, all of which divert funds away from the program's actual goal. Any individual can apply or reapply by simply meeting the income and asset requirements. These are simple, commonsense reforms that save taxpayers billions and continue to protect those truly in need. I ask my colleagues to oppose this amendment.
Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding; but more importantly, I thank him for his outstanding leadership for helping us live the Bible here in the Congress. He has been a relentless, dissatisfied, persistent champion for feeding the hungry in America and throughout the world. He is the living example, personification of the Gospel of Matthew, and I appreciate the statements you made earlier about priorities and the least of our brethren.
I thank you, Mr. McGovern, for your leadership day in and day out of the task force on hunger and working with Congresswoman DeLauro, an appropriator, who shares your value on this subject. You both have been magnificent.
And I thank you as a mom, because we all have our motivation for going into politics or deciding that we're going to run for office, and my motivation can be described in three words: the children, the children, the children. As a mother of five myself and as a grandmother, I know how children thrive when they have the attention, the love, the food, and the care that they need.
It is always a wonderment to me that in this, the greatest country that ever existed in the history of the world, that one in four or one in five children goes to sleep hungry at night. So it is another wonderment to me why we should even have to have this conversation on the floor of the House as to whether we, as a nation, are prepared to feed our children.
We are all familiar with the comment, ``from the mouths of babes.'' From the mouth of babes. It's sometimes followed by ``come gems.'' In this case, ``from the mouths of babes comes food.'' Food to live, to be sustained, to be healthy, food to study and do well in school, food to have respect in their family and their friends and all the rest.
What's really interesting about it, though, for all the sentiment that is involved about feeding the children of our country, it makes economic sense to do so as well. The CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, says that rate increases of SNAP benefits is one of the two best options to boost growth and jobs in a weak economy. For every $1 invested in the SNAP program, for every $1 invested in that initiative, $1.70 is injected into the economy for economic activity. This purchasing power given
to families who will spend it immediately because this is a necessity, this purchasing, injects demand into the economy, creating jobs. Don't take it from me. The Congressional Budget Office says this is one of the two best ways to boost growth.
Another economic aspect of this is that, as has been said over and over again, nearly 20 million children--20 million children--are the beneficiaries of food stamps.
Why do those families need food stamps? Well, some of them are families that are making the minimum wage. In fact, if you're a family of four and you have two wage earners, Mr. Chairman, the income you make from two wage earners making the minimum wage still has you below the poverty line and eligible for food stamps. Two wage earners making the minimum wage cannot afford to put food on the table; hence, they qualify for food stamps.
These food stamps in some ways are subsidizing a too low minimum wage in our country. So, speaking of the children, the children, the children, I hope that one of the other things that we will do here is to raise minimum wage, because that is the decent thing to do.
But many of the same people who want to cut food stamps--in fact, 2 million families out of food stamps--are the same people who are opposed to increasing the minimum wage. So it's a question of fairness. It's a question of decency. It's a question of respect for all of God's children. It's also a question of doing the right thing not only for the children but for our economy--$1.70 of economic growth injected for every $1 spent on food stamps.
Now, to cut food stamps and, therefore, reduce that economic growth might be considered one of the least smart ideas that you will hear here, but there is so much competition for that designation that it just fits comfortably among initiatives to suppress the wages and to cut food stamps. It's all part of a package, and it is not a pretty sight.
That's why, Mr. McGovern, your relentless, persistent, dissatisfied advocacy is such a beautiful thing in this arena where people take very lightly cutting 2 million people off of food stamps.
I urge our colleagues to support the McGovern amendment.
Ms. LEE of California. Let me thank Congressman McGovern for yielding and also for your tremendous leadership, not only in preserving our safety net, but your tireless work to eliminate hunger, which really should be an oxymoron in America.
I'm a proud cosponsor and rise in strong support of this amendment to safeguard hungry children and families across America.
Mr. Chairman, this farm bill would make heartless and harmful cuts to our Nation's frontline defense against hunger, the SNAP program. Oftentimes, people need a safety net, a bridge over troubled waters to help them through difficult economic times.
And yet these huge cuts come, even while they preserve wasteful subsidies for huge agribusiness, that really don't need corporate subsidies to continue with their huge profits.
Taking away food from hungry children hurts their health, their educational outcome, and restricts their economic prospects for their entire adult lives. And the Federal Government will end up paying more for their health care and their education, and get less revenue from their taxes.
As a former food stamp recipient, I know for a fact no one wants to be on food stamps. People want to work.
Mr. YOHO. I thank the gentleman from Oklahoma.
Mr. Chairman, I stand in opposition to Mr. McGovern's amendment because the amount removed from the food stamp program will not remove one calorie off anyone's plate that deserves it or requires this assistance.
And I know the importance, personally, of having to go on food stamps. When my wife and I first got married, we were 19 1/2 . The interest rates in the economy went to 20 percent, and we had to get on food stamps for a short period of time. So I understand the need for those.
But yet let's look at the facts here. Out of the whole bill, of $940 billion being spent over 10 years we're looking at here, 80 percent of that goes to the food stamp program, which is approximately $752 billion. Eighty percent of the farm bill is going to that. Only 20 percent is actually going to the farmers, and we've cut that drastically over the last couple of years.
And so this is just a commonsense approach of reducing the amount of money that we're spending in this country. And I stand in opposition to this amendment.
Ms. DeLAURO. Let me just say to my colleague a few minutes ago who was up on this floor and talking against the food stamp program and against the McGovern amendment, I think it's important to note this is not my making this up, but this is an individual who has received almost $4.7 million in farm subsidies since 1995, including nearly $1.2 million in direct payments.
Now, I don't know whether that is a program that is means tested, that's asset tested, and that has a cap on it. No, this is free money for people who serve in this body. And these are the same folks who want to cut the food stamp program.
I rise in strong support of this amendment to replace those deep cuts to the food stamp program, which is our Nation's most important anti-hunger program. All across the country, cities, suburbs, rural communities, from the coast to the heartland, nearly 50 million Americans are struggling with hunger, and almost 20 million of them are our children. No part of the country is immune.
We should not destroy what has been a longstanding, bipartisan tradition to give crucial nutrition assistance. This is what this farm bill does. It cuts out the nutrition program for 2 million people, a million of whom are children.
And the research has shown us that the food stamp program is the most effective program pushing against the steep rise in poverty. Ninety-nine percent of recipients live under the poverty line. They're not getting $4.7 million in subsidies from the Federal Government.
By the way, when my colleagues on the other side of the aisle talk about waste, fraud and abuse, this is a program with a 3.8 percent error rate. I defy you to go to any other agency of the Federal Government and find that they have as low an error rate.
You want to talk about a program that really ought to be challenged in this farm bill?
Let's take a look at the crop insurance program. Look at the crop insurance program.
Support the McGovern amendment.
Mr. LUCAS. That being the case, Mr. Chairman, I yield myself the balance of my time.
Mr. Chairman, I think it's worth noting that, when the Ag Committee put this bill together, a bill which had bipartisan support, overwhelming support from both sides of the aisle in the process, we understood that reform had to be achieved across the board.
We have reforms in the commodity title. The direct payment program goes away. We have reforms in the conservation program, $6 billion worth of savings through reforms. And, yes, we address the nutrition title.
We tried, in good faith, to pick programs that would not, in the eyes of the committee as a whole, create huge hardship on citizens.
How did we do that?
Well, categorical eligibility. If you receive some other Federal welfare benefit, under present law, you automatically get food stamps. We simply say, you have to apply. Demonstrate your income, demonstrate your assets. If you qualify, we help you. But you've got to prove you qualify.
Now, some may argue about what those assets and income levels are, but that's not the debate today. It's automatic food stamps.
Something called LIHEAP, where a number of States use the flexibility of the '96 law to say we'll help you with your home heating, and then you can automatically qualify for food stamps. There are actually some States that send out a dollar to qualify for a free month's worth of automatic food stamps.
We simply say in the bill, States, if you want to do this, power to you. But put $20 a month out. Buy more than just a cup or a pint of home heating oil. Actually put something up. That saves about $8 billion.
We tried very hard to come up with ways that would not deny the needy the help they need but, by the same token, make sure those who qualified got the help. That's only fair to the recipients who need help. It's only fair to their fellow citizens who pay for that help.
We tried, in the best way we could, to achieve reform and to help those who need the help.
Now, will these CBO numbers be in fruition when it's all calculated?
I suspect a number of people who receive automatic food stamps will be eligible. They'll fill out the paperwork, [Page: H3855]
they'll demonstrate the need, they'll qualify.
But I can only work with the CBO numbers that are given to me under the rules of the House. And the rules say these two changes save $20.5 billion, half of the approximate $40 billion we save out of the overall FARRM Bill.
It's tough economic times. It's a challenging Federal budget. We're trying to do the right thing. We're trying to do it in the most difficult of circumstances.
I respect my friends, my colleagues. We just happen to disagree about how the policy will work. I sincerely believe the perspective I've offered is accurate. If my friends are accurate and I'm wrong, then we'll address this issue sometime in the very near future. If I'm right, then the people who need help will continue to get help. The Treasury will have $20-some billion of a $40 billion package to spend in other places.
I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. DAVID SCOTT of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, I demand a recorded vote.
The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to clause 6 of rule XVIII, further proceedings on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Pennsylvania will be postponed.
AMENDMENT NO. 27 OFFERED BY MR.
The Acting CHAIR. It is now in order to consider amendment No. 27 printed in part B of House Report 113-117.