Energy & Environment

Rep. Schweikert: farm bill should be split to expose social welfare spending

Rep. Schweikert: farm bill should be split to expose social welfare spending

A massive spending bill in the name of farm subsidies is actually a welfare package that should be torn apart to expose it for the social program it actually funds, a Republican lawmaker said Monday.

By dividing the farm bill into two measures — one for agriculture subsidies and the other funding $800 billion for food stamps – Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) says the real work can begin to reform both programs.

“It’s unfair to call it a farm bill when 80 percent goes to social welfare spending,” Schweikert said. “This bill is really bad policy the way it is packaged.”

The farm bill was passed by the Senate in June and the House Agriculture Committee last week and seeks to spend nearly $1 trillion over a ten-year period.

But both chambers are at odds over how much should be cut from the food stamp program, which has grown significantly during the Obama administration. The Senate is seeking cuts totaling less than $5 billion, while House Republicans want to cut $35 billion.

The number of Americans on food stamps has quadrupled since 2001 when more than 17 million collected the benefits, and is now received by nearly 45 million people. In 2003 the food stamp program consumed 64 percent of the entire farm bill, this year it is expected to total nearly 80 percent.

“This administration has literally turned (food stamps) into a recruitment tool for dependency on the federal government,” Schweikert said. “We are in a dependency crisis.”

Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has not set a date for the bill to come to the House floor for a vote. Boehner is reportedly concerned the farm bill vote will expose divisions among the Republican ranks and divert attention from the party’s pre-election agenda supporting a stronger economy, tax cuts, and regulatory reform.

But if the bill is split, Schweikert said Republicans can put a “magnifying glass” to the legislation so that needed reforms and spending cuts will have a “fighting chance.”

“I think we just need to step up and deal with it, and deal with it honorably,” Schweikert said.

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