The Senate’s final vote on the farm bill is expected next week, but according to Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, there will be no substantial reforms to the food stamp program due to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s obstructionism.
Eighty percent of the spending from the farm bill this year goes to the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, constituting $770 billion in spending over the next decade.
According to Sessions, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, Reid will not allow any of his reform measures — aimed at dealing with the swelling cost and growth of the welfare program — to even receive a vote.
“[Reid] is filling the amendment tree so basically nobody can get another amendment in unless he approves it,” the Alabama senator told The Daily Caller.
Spending on food stamps has quadrupled since 2001 and increased by 100 percent in the last four years. In the 1970s, 1-in-50 Americans participated in the program. Today, that ratio is 1-in-7. When the economy improves, the figure is set to hover at 1-in-9, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
This week Reid did allow Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s amendment, which would drastically cut food stamp spending and turn the program into a block grant to states, come to the floor. Sessions explained the vote was a political ploy, and that Reid knew the reform would not pass.
“He allowed the Rand Paul block grant food stamp amendment to go through because it was a bold amendment and not likely to pass — it did not pass,” Session’s explained, noting that he is in favor of block granting the program. “But the four amendments I’ve introduced are all good sound amendments that would be hard for anybody to say would damage the program. They would likely make the program better and [Reid] is afraid they might lose some of them. He does not want his members to have to vote.”
The Alabama senator’s four reform amendments are aimed at ensuring that only those who actually need food stamps are participating in the program, eliminating fraud, and getting rid of incentives for states to expand their food aid rolls.
“[Reid] doesn’t want them to pass,” Sessions said.
“The Majority Leader is a very knowledgeable politician and he believes that the American people do not understand that the vast majority of the bill spending is food stamps — not aid to farmers. As long as they don’t really know that, [Senate Democrats] want to maintain these programs without change,” Sessions said, adding that Reid does not want his members on record voting against the reforms.
Just 20 percent of the farm bill spending falls under the categories of crop insurance, commodities and conservation.
More people are focused on Washington than Reid thinks, according to Sessions, who added that the American people are sick of wasting money and that the current food stamp policies encourage vastly inflated spending.
“Americans are more angry about Washington’s unwillingness to reduce wasteful spending than a lot of politicians realize,” he said, noting that while the Senate might be at a food stamp stalemate the Republican-controlled House is likely to make some progress on confronting the issue, it will end up as a watered down compromise.
This is not the first time Session’s calls for SNAP reform have fallen on deaf ears. Last fall he sounded the alarm about the swelling spending and offered what he believes to have been a “modest reform to deal with the growth.” Then, Senate Democrats stuck together along with a smattering of Republicans to vote against the legislation.
“It would be a real abuse of power to block all these amendments,” Sessions concluded.
Without his reforms, however, the current farm bill is still expected to reduce food stamp spending by $4 billion over the next 10 years by targeting abuse.
Reid’s office did not respond to TheDC’s request for comment.