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Pelosi Floor Speech in Opposition to Cutting Nutritional Assistance Programs

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor today urging House Republicans to vote against their legislation cutting nearly $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), denying millions of vulnerable Americans the ability to feed themselves and their family.  Below are the Leader’s remarks:

“Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.  I thank the gentle lady for yielding.  I thank her also for her leadership on this very important issue to the values of our country.  Her service on the Agriculture Committee is indeed a blessing to us all as we fight for our children.  Mr. Lucas, thank you for your leadership on the committee as well.  I know you tried to bring a bipartisan bill to the floor.  What happened after that?  Well, I won’t go into it.  I also want to salute Collin Peterson, our colleague on the committee.  We need a Farm bill, we want to have a good Farm bill for our farmers, for our ranchers, for food security, [and] for our country.  So, hopefully we can get to that place.  But not [by] doing violence to our children. 

“Mr. Speaker, this body is so magnificent because it’s so diverse.  We represent districts all over the country.  We represent people of different backgrounds all over the country.  But one thing, among others, but one thing that we certainly have in common is that each one of us has people in our districts who depend on the SNAP program for their nutrition.  There isn’t one person in this room who could rise up and say: ‘Nobody in my district relies on the nutrition programs that are in the Farm bill.’  Chief among them are children, seniors, veterans and their families.  They are the real faces of hunger in America – and their stories are the most compelling reason to reject this dangerous Republican legislation.

“In my district in San Francisco, people from all walks of life have relied on the SNAP program to make it through tough and trying times.  One young woman I want to highlight is Caitlin, now in her 20s, she worked hard at a part-time job to put herself through college.  But as the recession took its toll on students across the country looking for work, Caitlin found that she could not afford to pay rent and purchase food each month.  Because she qualified for the emergency food SNAP initiative, she was able to get by, get a promotion and now works full-time.

“Then there’s Brian, 50 years old and homeless.  Even as he searches for full-time employment, he spends his spare time volunteering at St. Anthony’s Dining Room, helping other people, a place to find food, to find shelter, clothes, and compassion in our community.  There he gives what little he has back to our community – wholeheartedly serving our seniors, veterans, children, and families who also rely on the generosity of people like Brian to feed themselves and their loved ones.

“Like Brian and Caitlin, millions of people across America are working hard and giving all that they have to lift themselves up and help others get back on their feet.

“I’ve heard my colleagues talk about, one of them said something: ‘If you don’t work, you shouldn’t eat,’ or something to that effect.  I hope I don’t quote him incorrectly.  It’s really important to note that because of the low minimum wage in our country, a family of four with both parents working full-time and earning below the minimum wage, are below the poverty line.  They don’t even come close.  One hundred and thirty percent of the poverty line.  They are below the poverty line.  So in some respect, the SNAP program is subsidizing a low minimum wage in our country, as other support does as well.

“I wish that we could respect how hard it is for a family of four with two people working full-time not making enough money to put food on the table.  That we respect them for their struggle and for their concern for their family and not judge them that they shouldn’t have food on the table because our country has chosen to pay a sub-living wage to so many people in our country. 

“The Republican proposal on the floor today slashes at, on the legs on which many of these people stand.  Indeed, cutting these investments is a full assault on the health and economic security of millions of families.  Consider this: one in five children, and it will soon become one in four, but one in five children struggle with hunger and nearly half of all SNAP recipients are children; nearly four million Americans over age 60 rely on nutrition assistance; five thousand active-duty military families, active-duty [military] families rely on SNAP, depend on SNAP; nearly three million veterans and their families don’t get enough to eat each month, and this bill will jeopardize food assistance for as many as 170,000 veterans.

“A couple of weeks ago, I was in Houston, Texas visiting my grandchildren and we were at mass.  And the sermon was a beautiful one and the gospel was that day, too.  Many of our colleagues have quoted the Gospel of Matthew: ‘When I was hungry, you [fed] me.’  And other parts of the bible, and the Gospel that day was talking about how we have a responsibility to each other.  In the sermon, the priest said something that I think we should consider as we consider our vote here today.  He said: ‘You just can’t come church and pray on Sunday and go out and prey on people for the rest of the week.’

“This legislation is preying – P-R-E-Y-I-N-G – on people, on children, on veterans, on seniors, on all those who are struggling to do their best in our country.  It is our moral obligation to reject this legislation and to preserve these investments that every American needs, for Americans who need them, and other Americans who want them to have it.  It is our moral duty to vote down this measure and to work across the aisle in conference on a comprehensive farm bill that ensure food security, supports our farmers and ranchers, and strengthens rural communities.

“Community.  That should be the word of the hour.  What is the responsibility to our community?  It certainly isn’t to say the kids: ‘We want you to do your best in school, but we are not going to fuel your mind by giving you food to eat.’  Or to thank our veterans by depriving them of this [and] our seniors for all that they have done. 

“Something is very wrong with this picture.  But I know one thing is for sure: every person who votes for this Republican measure is voting to hurt his or her own constituents because we all represent people who at some time need help.

“With that, I yield back the balance of my time.”

[Applause]