This vote was on a motion to kill off an amendment that would have allowed states to opt out of federal food stamp programs and launch their own assistance programs instead.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) offered the amendment during consideration of legislation that authorizes federal programs to assist farmers and low-income Americans. Sen. Paul’s amendment would have allowed states to establish their own food assistance programs. States which chose to strike out on their own could receive a grant from the federal government rather than participate in federal programs. Sen. Paul’s amendment also cut the amount of funding that would be available for food assistance.
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) made a motion to “table” Sen. Paul’s amendment, which would set aside and effectively kill the proposal.
Sen. Paul argued that federal food assistance programs had gotten out of control. In some cases, people are getting assistance from the federal government even though they do not need it, he said.
“We do not have an endless supply of money. I think Americans would be flabbergasted at the amount of money and that some of these programs are duplicative,” Sen. Paul said. “People getting food stamps for a meal are also getting a free lunch at school. Some of these programs are actually advertising for applicants. In my hometown they advertise to try to promote people coming in and getting the free lunch during the summertime. It is not that we won't help people. It is that we need to be conscious of how much money we have and that we help only those who cannot help themselves.”
Opponents of Sen. Paul’s amendment argued that while they agreed waste and fraud should not be tolerated, cutting funding and allowing states to run their own programs would harm individuals who are struggling and need the aid.
“I can tell you, coming from Michigan, I have people who have never before in their lives needed help with food assistance. They are mortified. They have paid taxes their whole life and they have never asked for help, but now that the plant has closed, they need some temporary help,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said. “I want to make sure that every single dollar goes where it should go… (But) this amendment is outrageous and would go completely against the commitment we as a country have made to help those who truly need it.”
The motion to kill off Sen. Paul’s amendment was approved by a vote of 65-33. Voting “yea” were 52 Democrats and 13 Republicans. Voting “nay” were 33 Republicans. As a result, the Senate defeated the effort to allow states to opt out of federal food stamp programs and launch their own assistance programs instead.