WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA), a member of House Democratic Leadership and the Ranking Member on the House Agriculture Committee's Nutrition Subcommittee, delivered the following statement at the House Agriculture Committee's markup of the 2018 Farm Bill:
"Mr. Chairman, let me begin by saying how deeply frustrated I am by this process. It’s shameful what Republicans on this Committee have done here.
"I wanted to serve on the House Agriculture Committee to be part of a process that helps our farmers and addresses the challenges of hunger and food insecurity that are all too common in our country. I got on this Committee to legislate, not to have my views ignored and not to merely sit here like a potted plant.
"I am the Ranking Member of the Nutrition Subcommittee, and last Thursday – just 6 days ago – was the first time I saw even one word of the nutrition title. To the best of my knowledge, it was the first time any Democrat on the Nutrition Subcommittee saw any of the language.
"Is that how this process is supposed to work, Mr. Chairman?
"How could anyone, how could any of you with a straight face, defend this process?
"Our Committee held 23 hearings on SNAP over the past two and a half years, and I attended each and every one of them. I believed you when you said this was part of a commitment to “good policy,” and I believed that our work would be in the tradition of this committee, which is bipartisan and sensible. How wrong I was to believe any of that.
"In the past, even when I haven’t been able to support some of the legislation that has advanced out of this Committee, I have always had confidence in the process. I have had confidence that minority views were heard and considered – confidence that my views mattered. Mr. Chairman, you have completely turned that longstanding practice and tradition upside down.
"If it was never the intention for us to participate in the process, if it was the plan all along to use this Committee, and this Farm Bill, as one last-ditch effort at advancing Speaker Ryan’s flawed “welfare reform” plan, then why did you—for two and a half years—parade all of these experts before the Committee?
"Not a single one of our 90 witnesses suggested any of the controversial provisions have been included in this partisan Farm Bill.
"Not a single one asked us to eliminate flexibility for states or to increase administrative burden. Not a single one asked us to make the “cliff” any steeper.
"Not a single one of those who testified – liberal or conservative – asked us to kick hundreds of thousands of working families out of the program and hundreds of thousands of kids off of free school meals.
"Not a single one told us to add hurdles for families with heating or cooling costs.
"Not a single one of them asked us to create an untested and underfunded massive new bureaucracy that states will not be able to implement.
"Not a single one of them suggested we kick vulnerable adults off of benefits when they can’t find work. In fact, I recall several witnesses telling us that vulnerable adults needed more time on the program, not less, to help them get by when times are tough.
"My Republican colleagues on this Committee are contorting themselves every which way to try to support this process and this product – to rationalize and defend the indefensible. Why? How could anybody in good conscious vote for this?
"If we actually held a hearing on what you are proposing; if you actually called local and state officials to react to what is in this nutrition title; if you actually asked beneficiaries and anti-hunger advocates to react to this – I guarantee you, this Committee would get an earful.
"This language is so unworkable and so out of touch and, quite frankly, so insulting to the most vulnerable in our country.
"This bill cuts SNAP benefits by over $20 billion and reduces or eliminates benefits for nearly two million kids, veterans, working families, and other vulnerable adults. It is shameful.
"This should stop now. Stop this markup and lets get back to a bipartisan process that has been the tradition of this committee. And let’s get back to a bipartisan process that will produce a bill the we all can be proud of.
"I don’t know why SNAP has become such a political football for my friends on the other side of the aisle. This is more than just numbers and statistics. We’re talking about real people. People who are struggling in this country."