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Hunger and the Ryan Budget

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HOLT. I thank my friend from Connecticut. I thank Mr. Becerra for his heartfelt and very moving remarks, and I thank Ms. Speier from California.

Look at this. Look at this map: 46 million Americans rely on SNAP. More than 9 million others rely on WIC, which is the Women, Infants, and Children food assistance. In New Jersey, my home State, more than 1 million residents rely on SNAP benefits to keep food on the tables. Then the budget, the Republican-Ryan budget, endorsed by Mitt Romney, would shred our social safety net while cutting taxes for the wealthy. It would cut food stamps, as these are generally known, by $133 billion over 10 years.

The authors of this or anyone who voted for it should walk a little bit in those shoes. I've walked in the shoes. More specifically, I've walked down the supermarket aisle with beneficiaries, with people who work in the food assistance programs, with food bank representatives. How does it go? Well, you can't buy that. No, you can't afford that. Oh, Mommy, can I have this? No. We're going to have to put that back on the shelf.

$31.50 a week. Nobody is doing this to have a little taste of luxury. Yet we have people come to the floor here in the House and say, before any of these millions of people get this assistance, they should have drug tests or means tests. I call them suspicion tests. Somehow they're trying to rip us off.

No, these are not welfare queens. Look, the average recipient is on these benefits for less than a year. More than half of them go to households where the income is below half the poverty line. The poverty line is low enough, but half of these recipients are at half that rate. Nearly 75 percent of SNAP participants are in families with children, and about half are working. These are working families who are trying to make it.

Is anybody who voted for this budget suggesting that the millionaires who might get an extra $100,000 on average submit to a drug test? submit to a means test? Are we suspicious of them? How about the executives of the oil companies who are getting billions of dollars of benefits in this? Are we going to subject them to drug tests or to means tests in order to show that they're deserving?

My friend from Connecticut (Ms. DeLauro) already mentioned the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. They wrote:

As pastors and teachers, we remind Congress that these--meaning the budget decisions--are economic, political and moral choices with human consequences.

Please, respectfully, they urge the rejection of any efforts to reduce funds or to restructure programs in ways that harm struggling families and people living in poverty.

I thank my colleague so much for shedding a bright light on this heartbreaking subject.


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