Cantor: GOP Food Stamps Bill Says Able-Bodied People Should Work

Susan Jones | September 20, 2013 | 8:56am EDT
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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) with House Speaker John Boehner in background. (AP File Photo)

( - House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says people who need food stamps will still get them, under a bill that passed the House 217-210 on Thursday.

But, he said, "if you're able-bodied, you should be willing to work." And if no jobs are available, "you could go and participate in community service activities or a workfare program."

Cantor told Fox News's Greta Van Susteren Thursday night that the food stamp program should be about "the dignity of a job."

"And in fact, going back to 1996 when a Republican Congress worked with President Bill Clinton, they overhauled the welfare program in this country and instituted a workfare requirement. And that's all this does."

The bill passed by the House on Thursday would cut around $4 billion annually to the $80 billion-a-year food stamp program and allow states to put in place broad new work requirements for recipients. The Senate-passed farm bill cuts far less, only $400 million a year. (GOP leaders split food stamps out of their farm bill, passing the latter in July.)

The White House threatened to veto the Republicans' food stamps bill, and Senate Democrats angrily criticized the level of cuts. "The Senate will never pass such hateful, punitive legislation," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

But Cantor said the goal of the Republican bill is "fairness" and "to help people."

"The critical piece of the House action today had to do with the work requirement," Cantor told Van Susteren. "[S]ince 2009, President Obama has essentially issued nationwide waivers to the work requirement. And that was what allowed the 1996 welfare reform to be so successful, that people actually came off the welfare rolls because they were back into productive mode.

"That's what we're trying to do to people. We are not saying that there shouldn't be a safety net. Certainly, there should be. And this is all about, frankly, able-bodied people going back to work," Cantor said.

"And think about it. If somebody is abusing the system or if somebody somehow gets used to a life of dependency, how is it fair for the working middle class of this country to have overtime, to go to work two jobs to help pay for that? That's the fairness in all of this. It's to help people."

As recently reported, a record 23,116,928 American households were enrolled in the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) during the month of June 2013, according to data released by the Department of Agriculture. That outnumbers the 20,618,000 households that the Census Bureau estimated were in the entire Northeastern United States as of the second quarter of 2013.

Van Susteren also asked Cantor about the ongoing fight over the debt ceiling.

He said House Republicans are trying to pass a temporary spending bill -- a continuing resolution -- "so we can hammer out a budget." At the same time, Republicans want to reduce the growth of spending and defund Obamacare, which will "raise health care prices" and "be bad for jobs," he added.

"We've got to stop it," Cantor said. "We're doing everything in the House to do so, and I know that we're all joining in support with these senators (Republicans Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Marco Rubio) that they'll do anything they can to stop Obamacare."

Cantor mentioned that Cruz, Lee and Ruio "have said that they're going to do everything and anything that they can to stop Obamacare," and they'll get their chance when the House sends the Senate a continuing resolution that funds all of government except for Obamacare.

"I don't think we should be betting against them," Cantor added.

He also indicated that Republicans have a political motivation in shifting the fight to the Senate: "And remember, this puts the Democrats like Kay Hagan in North Carolina and Mark Pryor in Arkansas and Mark Begich in Alaska and Senator Landrieu in Louisiana in a tough position. Obamacare has huge impacts in those states. These are Democratic senators that are up for reelection. Let's see how they respond because they also have to be held to account for Obamacare."

(The Associated Press contributed some of the information in this report.)

Also See:
Two Americans Added to Food Stamp Rolls for Every Job Administration Says It Created
Federal Food Stamp Program Spent Record $80.4B in FY 2012

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