Legislative Lowdown: The food stamp Senate

Brian Darling Liberty Government Affairs
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Some have accused President Obama of being the “food stamp president” because of how much the food stamp program has expanded under his leadership. But he’s not alone. The Senate this week is earning the title the “food stamp Senate” for doing nothing to stop the costs of the program from exploding.

The Senate is in the process of considering a renewal of the farm bill. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has been doing a great job clueing the American people in to what it really is: an expansion of the fourth-largest welfare program on the books — food stamps.

Sen. Sessions cites some striking facts about the food stamp program, which makes up 80 percent of the farm bill spending for next year. First, when the food stamp program, officially titled the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, was first expanded in 1970, only one in 50 Americans participated in the program. Today that ratio is almost one in seven.

Food stamps will cost about $770 billion over the next decade without reform. If the program were returned to an inflation-adjusted pre-recession level, the taxpayers would save $340 billion over the next 10 years.

Sen. Graham wants to raise your taxes

The Hill reports that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) wants to raise your taxes.

In an interview with The Hill, Graham had this to say about deficit reduction efforts: “When you eliminate deductions, it’s OK with me to use some of that money to get us out of debt. That’s where I disagree with the pledge.” The pledge Graham is referring to is the one he signed as a promise to the people of South Carolina and the American people that he would not raise taxes.

In the Americans for Tax Reform pledge, Sen. Graham promised to “one, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses; and, two, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.” Since then, Sen. Graham has publicly stated his intent to break that promise.

This is further evidence of a secret plan on the part of Republicans and Democrats to raise your taxes during the lame-duck session. The government has a spending problem — one that increased taxes on the American people will aggravate, not solve.

Congress debates domestic drones

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has commenced a national debate on the use of unmanned drones to monitor American citizens. This week, Senator Paul introduced the “Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act.” Paul is expected to push this idea for a vote by the end of the year. Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA) has a similar bill in the House.

The Paul bill states that, with exceptions, “a person or entity acting under the authority, or funded in whole or in part by, the government of the United States shall not use a drone to gather evidence or other information pertaining to criminal conduct or conduct in violation of a statute or regulation except to the extent authorized in a warrant that satisfies the requirements of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.” The bill makes exceptions for patrolling the national border, safeguarding Americans against terrorist threats and protecting Americans from imminent danger.

“Like other tools used to collect information in law enforcement, in order to use drones a warrant needs to be issued,” Paul said of his bill. “Americans going about their everyday lives should not be treated like criminals or terrorists and have their rights infringed upon by military tactics.” This bill is expected to spur a national debate about the extent to which the U.S. government should use drones for police activity without the securing of a warrant.

Attorney General Holder’s contempt of Congress

The House is scheduled to consider a contempt resolution for Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder. This week another member of Congress, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), called for Holder’s resignation. Holder is in deep political trouble.

In a Senate Judiciary hearing this week, Republicans blasted Holder for national security leaks. Holder has appointed two counsels to investigate the leaks by administration officials. Republican senators are demanding that an independent special prosecutor be appointed in order to remove any appearance of a conflict of interest.

The House is preparing for a debate and vote on a contempt resolution for Holder’s non-compliance with subpoenas issued by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA). The White House is standing with Holder. Expect a spirited debate next week on the resolution of contempt for the attorney general.

Brian Darling is Senior Fellow for Government Studies at The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).