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Public Statements

Providing for Further Consideration of H.R. 1947, Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, pursuant to section 426 of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, I make a point of order against consideration of the rule, House Resolution 271.

Section 426 of the Budget Act specifically states that the Rules Committee may not waive the point of order prescribed by section 425 of that same Act. House Resolution 271 states:

All points of order against amendments printed in part B of the report of the Committee on Rules or against amendments en bloc described in section 3 of this resolution are waived.

Therefore, I make a point of order pursuant to section 426 that this rule may not be considered.

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time to close.

Let me thank my colleagues who have come to the floor to speak in support of an amendment that I and dozens and dozens of other Members have authored to repeal the SNAP cuts, to repeal the $20.5 billion worth of cuts in SNAP that will result in 2 million people losing the benefit, and hundreds of thousands of children losing a free breakfast or lunch at school. That cut is too much. It is too harsh. It is a deal breaker for many of us when it comes to the farm bill.

What we should be about in this House of Representatives is to improve the quality of life for people, lift people up, not put people down, and these cuts put people down. We can do much better.

Again, I thank my colleagues for coming to the floor and look forward to more debate on this.

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Sessions), the distinguished chairman, for yielding me the customary 30 minutes, and I yield myself 4 1/2 minutes.

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by thanking Chairman Sessions and thanking the staff on the Rules Committee, both the majority and the minority, for their hard work in trying to put this rule together.

I want to commend Chairman Sessions, in particular, I think, for making an honest attempt of trying to include as many amendments as possible. There are over 100 amendments that have been made in order, and I appreciate the fact that so many amendments were made in order, and many Democratic amendments were made in order.

Unfortunately, some important amendments were not made in order, which means that those of us on this side of the aisle, I think, will have to oppose this rule. And I certainly also want to make it clear that I oppose the underlying bill as it is now written.

But before I explain why I oppose the FARRM Bill, let me begin also by commending Chairman Lucas and Ranking Member Peterson and their staffs for all their hard work in crafting this legislation. It is no easy task, and they have done their best to thread a very small needle.

I'm honored to be a member of the Agriculture Committee, and I want to support a farm bill. I believe this Nation needs a farm bill. And, indeed, this bill contains a number of good things.

I'm pleased that the bill includes an amendment that I offered in committee to close a loophole in Federal animal-fighting laws that allow spectators at animal fights to avoid prosecution.

I support the dairy program in this bill and believe that it would be good for dairy farmers in the Northeast, who are such an important part of our economy.

But I cannot and I will not support this FARRM Bill as it is currently written. I cannot support a bill that cuts the SNAP program by $20.5 billion.

I cannot support a bill that will force 2 million Americans to lose their benefits.

I cannot support a bill that throws over 200,000 American children off the free school breakfast and lunch program. In short, I cannot support a bill that will make hunger in America even worse than it already is.

Right now, as we speak, as we gather here, there are 50 million hungry Americans; 17 million of them are children. Many of them work but do not earn enough to make ends meet. All of us, every single one of us in this Chamber, should be ashamed by those numbers.

Food is not a luxury; it is a basic necessity. But there isn't a single congressional district in America that is hunger-free.

Ending hunger in America used to be a bipartisan issue. To my Republican friends, I say, remember the work of people like Bob Dole and Bill Emerson, who dedicated themselves to this issue. Be proud of that legacy; don't dismantle it.

And to my fellow Democrats, I say, if we do not stand for helping the poor and the hungry, then what are we doing here?

There are all sorts of nice little deals in this bill for all sorts of people. Peanut growers get a nice deal; cotton growers get a nice deal. Even sushi rice producers get a really nice deal for some reason.

But poor people in America, hungry people, get a raw deal. It is a rotten thing to do to cut SNAP by $20.5 billion. It's a lousy thing to do to throw 2 million people off this program.

I will have an amendment later in this process to restore these cuts to SNAP in a way that not only reduces subsidies to big agribusiness, but actually reduces the deficit by an additional $12 million beyond the base bill. So I would urge any of my colleagues who are concerned about deficit reduction to support my amendment.

You know, we hear a lot of rhetoric about waste, fraud, and abuse in the SNAP program even though SNAP has an incredibly low error rate. I promise you that if our defense programs had the same error rate as SNAP, we would save billions and billions and billions of dollars.

I'm going to have more to say about my amendment during its consideration, but I would urge my colleagues to take a look at it and support it.

I'd also like to take a moment to ask my colleagues to support the amendment offered by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Royce and Ranking Member Engel to provide modest, but important, reforms to our international food aid programs. This amendment will enable more people to benefit from our scarce U.S. dollars, while ensuring that U.S. commodity producers and shippers remain actively engaged in alleviating hunger around the world.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I am concerned that the rule makes in order several, quite frankly, mean-spirited amendments that do nothing but demonize the poor and make their lives even more difficult. I urge my colleagues to oppose those amendments, oppose this rule, and oppose the underlying bill.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, let me yield myself 10 seconds.

I would just say to the gentleman in response, the Congressional Budget Office--not me, but the Congressional Budget Office--says that these cuts would throw 2 million people off of SNAP and over 200,000 kids off the free breakfast and lunch program. I assure you that people will lose food over these cuts. This is not something we should do.

Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentlewoman from Ohio (Ms. Kaptur).

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 30 seconds.

Mr. Speaker, let me be clear that the $20.5 billion worth of cuts in SNAP are not about taking rapists, pedophiles, and murderers off the rolls. This is about going after poor people. And it is curious that we have an amendment to go after rapists, pedophiles, and murderers who are not SNAP, but those who receive crop insurance, not those who receive agricultural subsidies. I mean, it's incredible what's going on here.

I'd also say to my colleague that it was the Republicans' idea to have sequestration; it was Republicans in this House that passed sequestration. But I'm going to give you credit that at least SNAP was exempted; it was exempted from sequestration and from Simpson-Bowles because it was thought that to balance the budget on the backs of poor people who have nothing was a rotten and cruel thing to do.

Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentlewoman from New Mexico (Ms. Michelle Lujan Grisham).

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I have great respect for the gentleman from Texas, the chairman of the Rules Committee, and I appreciate his courtesies in the Rules Committee yesterday, but I have to object to the way he is kind of characterizing those people who are on SNAP. Demonizing and stereotyping people who are on SNAP as somehow rapists, pedophiles, and murderers is just plain wrong. It's just wrong. Please don't do that.

These are people who are law-abiding citizens, they are good people, and they've fallen on hard times. Millions and millions and millions of these people work for a living but they earn so little that they still qualify for SNAP. I have to interject that because these people don't deserve to be demonized, they deserve a helping hand.

Mr. Speaker, at this time, I would like to insert in the Record a letter to the New York delegation from Governor Andrew Cuomo opposing these cuts in the farm bill.

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Mr. McGOVERN. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, just a couple of points to some of the things the gentleman from Texas said.

He talked about the increased numbers of people who are on SNAP. The reason why is that we've had a difficult economy. We've had the worst recession since the Great Depression. Lots of people lost work, and lots of people are underemployed right now, so that's why. The CBO tells us that, as we look to the future and as the economy gets better, the number of people on SNAP will go down. So this is there for people who have fallen on hard times. That's why the numbers have increased, and they're going to go down.

The gentleman says that this bill somehow represents reform. This is not about reform. When you come up with reforms, we deliberate. In the Agriculture Committee, in the Subcommittee on Nutrition, do you know how many hearings there were on SNAP? Zero. None. In the full committee, do you know how many hearings there were on SNAP? Zero. None. Then the language appears in the bill that we have before us during a markup.

If you really want reform, you have to listen to people, and you have to deliberate. That's what hearings are for. We have to reach out and figure out how to make this program better. I'm all for making this program better, but that's not what this is about, so let's not have anybody be under the misimpression that this is about reform.

This really is about trying to find an offset to be able to pay for all of the other things and to try to use this to help kind of balance the budget. We're not going after the big agribusiness, and we're not going after crop insurance. What we're doing is going after poor people. They don't have super PACs, and they don't have big lobbyists down here, so there are no political repercussions. That's what this about.

Mr. Speaker, at this time, I would like to yield 1 1/2 minutes to a leader on this issue, the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Deutch).

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Mr. McGOVERN. I yield myself the balance of my time to close.

I will insert in the Record a letter that was sent to Members of Congress by dozens and dozens of organizations ranging from the AFL-CIO; The Alliance to End Hunger; Bread for the World; Feeding America; Food Research and Action Center (FRAC); Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger; MomsRising; and Share Our Strength. I can go on and on.

Mr. Speaker, this is an important debate we are having and will have on this farm bill. It is about our values. The question is, is it acceptable to try to balance the budget or pay for other programs to benefit wealthy special interests by cutting a program that benefits the poorest of the poor in this country, a program called SNAP.

The people on SNAP, I want to remind my colleagues, are good, decent, honest people. They are our neighbors. They are people who have fallen on hard times. They are people who are working, working full time and still not earning enough to be able to not qualify for public assistance. Those are the people we're talking about. Those are the people who would be adversely impacted with a $20.5 billion cut.

I would also say to my colleagues who say that we can't afford to support our social safety net, can't afford to support anti-hunger programs, I want them to know that hunger costs America a great deal. The Center For American Progress did a study that said it cost us $168.5 billion a year in avoidable health care costs, disability, lost wages, reduced learning capacity.

Hungry children who go to school don't learn. That's why it's particularly cruel that over 200,000 kids will lose their access to free lunch and breakfast at school. Those kids will go to school hungry. You don't learn if you're hungry. We all talk about preparing the new generation and making sure our kids have all the opportunities. But food is as essential to learning as that textbook is. And here we are, we're going to embrace a bill that cuts 200,000 kids off the school breakfast and lunch program. Cutting SNAP will make hunger worse, and it will have long-term consequences.

Let me just finally say that we're going to have an amendment coming up shortly after we vote on the rule that I have sponsored along with dozens and dozens of other Members here in the House of Representatives to restore the cuts in SNAP. I would urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to think long and hard before you vote. We don't have to do this. The price of a farm bill should not be making more people hungry in America, but yet that's the price that's being exacted through this bill.

We are a better country than this. Let's not go down this road. This used to be a bipartisan effort. Bob Dole and Bill Emerson championed some of the anti-hunger programs that have kept people fed, that have invested in people who are now very successful. Don't turn your backs on that tradition.

And to my Democratic colleagues, I remind you that if we do not stand with people who are hungry, with people who are poor and vulnerable, then what the hell do we stand for? You know, this is about our values.

So, Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on this rule because a lot of amendments that should have been made in order were not. I appreciate the courtesies that my colleague, Mr. Sessions, afforded to us in the Rules Committee. I know he tried very hard to include as many amendments as possible. I appreciate that very much. I appreciate my amendment being made in order, but I think we could have done a little bit better.

I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on this rule. And please vote ``yes'' on the McGovern amendment. If that should fail, do not send a farm bill forward that will throw 2 million people off the rolls of SNAP and 200,000 kids off of free breakfast and lunch programs. We can do much better than that.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.

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