The Senate on Wednesday defeated a Republican-offered measure to drastically cut food stamps.
The amendment to the farm bill, offered by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), was shot down 65-33 in the Democratic-led chamber. It would have slashed $322 billion by placing a cap on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program spending and handing control to states.
The vote is a reminder of the fiercely ideological nature of today’s Republican Party, particularly when considering the economic bang for the buck food stamps are known to have. The Congressional Budget Office and other nonpartisan studies have found that food stamps provide exceptionally strong stimulative and job-creation value in an under-performing economy.
Paul evoked a handful of instances of misuse to make his case for the measure, although his amendment would go much further than targeting abusers.
“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 said. “We need to remember that 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.”
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) excoriated the legislation.
“Hungry children didn’t cause the recession or the deficit, and cutting food stamps will not solve our debt problem,” he said. “But hungry children don’t have lobbyists, so programs like food stamps end up on the Republican chopping block.”
The rise of food stamps recipients in recent years, caused by the Great Recession, has evolved into a common Republican talking point as the party has sought cuts to food assistance and various domestic programs for low-income people.
The farm bill is set to reduce SNAP spending by $4 billion over 10 years by targeting fraud.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.