The House of Representatives voted to slash nearly $40 billion in food stamp aid Thursday. Though members advocating for the aid program ultimately lost, it wasn’t for lack of trying.
In a five-minute plea against the cuts, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) used a steak, a bottle of vodka and a jar of caviar as props to highlight what she said was hypocritical spending in Congress.
Some members of Congress voting to cut food stamps "travel to foreign countries under the guise of official business,” she said. “They dine at lavish restaurants eating steak, vodka and even caviar,” she continued, lifting each item. “They receive money to do this. That’s right, they don’t pay out of pocket for these meals.”
Speier then outlined examples of what she said was lavish House spending, including one congressman's tab for $3,558 for food and lodging during a six-day trip to Russia.
“That particular member has 21,000 food stamp recipients in his district,” Speier said. “One of those people who is on food stamps could live a year on what this congressman spent on food and lodging for six days.”
Speier also spotlighted a recent trip to Dublin, Ireland, by 20 members of Congress, who received $166 per day for individual meals. “Yet for them, the idea of helping fellow Americans spend less than $5 a day makes their skin crawl,” she said.
Proponents of the bill that would cut food stamps argued that spending $80 billion a year for the food stamp program is out of control, and that some Americans, like a California surfer profiled by Fox News, were sponging off of the system.
“This bill eliminates loopholes, ensures work requirements, and puts us on a fiscally responsible path,” said Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.). “In the real world, we measure success by results. It’s time for Washington to measure success by how many families are lifted out of poverty and helped back on their feet, not by how much Washington bureaucrats spend year after year.”
The Republican-led House passed the food stamp cuts -- which will reduce nutritional assistance to millions of Americans, including some 170,000 veterans -- by a vote of 217-210.
Speier was not available for comment following the vote.
"I can stand here and say that my point is about saving food stamps from cuts," Speier told fellow representatives before the vote. "But my larger point is about us as a country. I’m a member of the least productive Congress in the history of this country. I’m ashamed of that. When a government for the people becomes a government in spite of the people, then who are we really serving?"