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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



S. 3602. A bill to repeal the nutrition entitlement programs and establish a food stamp block grant program; to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, I rise to introduce a new bill, the Food Stamp Restoration Act. This is a bill that will completely revamp the Food Stamp program, which is something that is desperately needed. Since the beginning of the Obama administration, the number of Americans on Food Stamps has increased by 46 percent. Over 46 million Americans currently claim Food Stamp benefits, and this costs taxpayers over $80 billion per year. In 2008, just four years ago, the program cost $40 billion per year--it has more than doubled in cost under President Obama's leadership.

How on earth did we get here?

Many changes to the program that have ballooned its cost have been made in recent years. President Obama, in his stimulus package, pushed reforms that both made it easier to qualify for the program and increased the value of the program's benefits. When the stimulus bill passed, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the changes made to the Food Stamp program would increase the cost of it by to nearly $60 billion over 10 years.

Worse yet, the President has pursued economic, tax, and regulatory policies that are anti-business. These policies have made the business environment uncertain, which makes it nearly impossible for firms to invest in and expand their businesses. Businesses are doing well to simply hold on to what they already have. This has kept both unemployment and food stamp enrollment higher than it should be.

Since the stimulus package, there have been a few efforts to tinker with the structure and value of the Food Stamp program, but none of them have amounted to much. The Senate-passed Farm Bill reduced the cost of the program by a paltry $4 billion over 10 years, which is less than 1 percent of its total 10-year cost. That was one of the main reasons I voted against the Farm Bill.

But we have moved well beyond tinkering around the edges. If we do not do anything to dramatically reform the food stamp program, it will cost Federal taxpayers nearly $800 billion over the next decade. This program needs to change.

That is why I am introducing the Food Stamp Restoration Act.

Today, the Food Stamp program is a mandatory program, meaning that Congress does not have to appropriate money every year for the Food Stamp program to be funded. Rather, it is funded automatically. This dramatically reduces Congressional accountability over the program, leaving few opportunities to make adjustments and improvements to the program. This needs to change.

My bill tackles this problem head on. The Food Stamp Restoration Act converts the program from a mandatory program into a discretionary one. If my bill is enacted, Congress will have to decide each year how much money to spend on the Food Stamp program.

My bill also removes the power of designing and running the program from the Federal Government and gives it to the states. The new Food Stamp program will be a block grant, which means that States will be given nearly limitless flexibility to design and implement their food stamp programs in the way that best serves their people.

This makes sense to me. I have never thought that bureaucrats in Washington understood Oklahomans. But the people in Oklahoma City do. If my bill is enacted, each State will receive an allotment from the Food Stamp appropriation that will be proportional to the number of individuals living in the State with an income at or below the Federal poverty level. Benefits will be given to the people who need them most.

States will only have to meet a few requirements to qualify for the block grant. First, their program will not be allowed to authorize benefit spending on things like alcohol and tobacco. The program should only allow benefit spending on real food. Second, all beneficiaries must submit themselves to drug testing. Finally, States must implement work requirements for the beneficiaries. This follows the general welfare reform efforts that I have been championing since first coming to the Senate.

To give States flexibility during times of economic weakness, they will be able to keep their allotment of funds for up to 5 years. This will allow States to provide benefits to more people during times of higher unemployment. After 5 years, if States have unused funds, the money will return to the Treasury for deficit reduction or debt repayment.

All told, my bill will save over $300 billion for Federal taxpayers, and it make significant improvements to the current program by giving States complete control over the design and implementation of the programs within their States.

The Obama administration has dramatically increased the cost of this welfare program, making millions more Americans reliant on federal assistance than necessary. The cost has doubled in just four short years. I urge the Senate to consider my bill soon so that we can save taxpayers $300 billion over 10 years while reducing the dependency of the population on government programs.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the RECORD,


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