Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y) fired back at a Republican colleague's attack on her effort to stop cuts to food stamps, dismissing Sen. Jeff Sessions' (R-Ala.) suggestion that her defense of the program was immoral.
During an interview with MSNBC's Al Sharpton on Thursday evening, Gillibrand evoked the Bible while discussing what she sees as a "fascinating" debate.
"In Matthew 25, the first question Christ asks on Judgement Day is, 'Did you feed the poor?'" Gillibrand said, referring to the first book of the New Testament. "It's unacceptable that we have Republican advocates who are saying it's immoral to support food stamps."
Gillibrand was referencing Sessions' Wednesday speech on the Senate floor, during which he attacked the Democratic senator for her efforts to restore $4.5 billion in aid to programs that feed the hungry that the Senate's proposed farm bill would cut.
"Is our national goal to place as many people on welfare, food stamp support, as we can possibly put on that program?" Sessions said of Gillibrand's amendment. "Is that our goal? Is that a moral vision for the United States of America, just to see how many people we can place in a situation where they're dependent on the federal government for their food? I just ask that. I think we should wrestle with that question."
Gillibrand, who pointed out on Thursday that her amendment would not add to food stamps program, expressed similar surprise at Sessions' line of attack immediately following his floor speech. HuffPost's Mike McAuliff reported:
In a statement to The Huffington Post, Gillibrand said she was stunned that a colleague would suggest the moral course is to cut food aid at a time when the Congressional Budget Office estimates need will continue to grow through 2014 because of the lingering effects of the recession -- especially when the spending also boosts the economy.
"It is shocking as a mother and a lawmaker when clear facts about the return on investment is ignored, and cutting billions in food assistance for hungry kids is framed as being on the right side of a clear moral issue," Gillibrand said.
The senator made a similar point on Thursday, highlighting the needs of those who would be most impacted by the cuts.
"This is money that's literally going to feed children," Gillibrand said. "I don't know if he's ever heard a young child say 'Mommy, I'm still hungry,' but any mother who hears those words and is not able to give their child food is unacceptable. Unacceptable in a country as rich as ours to not be able to provide those families with the food they need."