Senators Vote Not to Cut Food Assistance

Senator Rand Paul’s attempt to reduce Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits is thwarted.
(Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Jun 14, 2012· 1 MIN READ
Clare Leschin-Hoar's stories on seafood and food politics have appeared in Scientific American, Eating Well and elsewhere.

Yesterday the Senate rejected an effort by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul to drastically cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Approximately 49 million Americans—one in seven—rely on food aid, but Paul wanted the program cut by $322 billion.

In a 65-33 bipartisan vote that included 13 Republicans, Paul’s amendment (part of the Farm Bill) was tabled by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and effectively killed.

SNAP (previously known as food stamps) takes up $80 billion of the $100 billion annual Farm Bill funding. Three out of four SNAP households include a child, a person over the age of 60, or a disabled person.

Paul argued the program was wasteful and riddled with fraud.

“We need to remember that recently a woman in Chicago faked the birth of triplets in order to receive $21,000 in food stamps,” he told Talking Points Memo. “We need to remember the millionaires, including Larry Ficke, who won $2 million, are still receiving food stamps because he says he has got no income. He has got $2 million, but no income.”

Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) called Paul’s suggested cuts outrageous, and is quoted by Politico saying waste and fraud are being addressed. “But for somebody in this great country who’s paid taxes all their lives and worked all their lives and now needs help to put food on the table…they need to know that we’re going to be able to provide a little bit of temporary help.”

In April the Congressional Budget Office released a report detailing the SNAP program, that found that participation in the SNAP program was the highest it’s ever been, in part, because of the country’s Great Recession. Another study by the Food Research and Action Center found that the SNAP program creates $1.73 in economic activity for every dollar spent.

The Senate plans to continue to whittle down the approximately 200 amendments attached to the Farm Bill, which include items like buying more pulse crop products for school lunches; providing emergency loans for fishermen; and eliminating subsidies for mohair and popcorn.