This was a vote on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and determining which amendments could be offered to legislation providing annual funding for Agriculture Department programs. In addition to overseeing farm programs, the Agriculture Department funds most food aid and nutritional assistance programs. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (more commonly known as “food stamps” or SNAP), for example, is funded through the Agriculture Department.
Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) urged support for the resolution and the underlying agriculture bill: “I find it very interesting in listening to the discussion here today about whose responsibility it is to feed those who are hungry. I don't think anybody on this floor would say that we don't want to help someone who is in need of food or basic essential services. I think what this is is a discussion about the difference in philosophy in Washington about the role of government in Washington….I can tell you as an American farmer in Indiana that myself and many other American farmers and individuals are much better suited to help those who are in most need, in helping in the community, donating food, being a part of a food pantry. We are a generous nation, and what has become of our ability to help is that we have a federal government that continues to saddle us with more and more debt, more and more taxes and regulation, making it much more difficult to make the profits with which we can then turn around and help our communities with food, with the basic services that our churches, our charities and many other organizations in our local communities provide.”
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) opposed the resolution and the underlying agriculture bill: “As written, this is a pro-hunger bill. There is no other way to say it. No matter what anyone says, this bill will increase hunger here at home and around the world. A vote for this bill is a vote to willfully allow people in America and around the world to go without food. A vote for this bill is to take food from children and seniors, to allow food banks to open with half full and empty shelves….The only thing crueler than ignoring a hungry person is giving a hungry person food and then taking it away. No one would condone that…Yet that's what this bill does. We're not just talking about that tired, old stereotype of the welfare queen gaming the system….The bill we're talking about are people who play by the rules but who are struggling to make ends meet because of the difficult economy. We are seeing middle-income families who are now turning to food banks and food pantries. In times of need, we are supposed to help our brothers and sisters in need. That's what a community is about. That's what our country is supposed to be about. Yet this bill does not do that. Instead, it cruelly targets those who are hurting at no fault of their own.”
The House agreed to this resolution by a vote of 235-180. All 231 Republicans present and 4 Democrats voted “yea.” 180 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House proceeded to formal floor debate on legislation providing annual funding for Agriculture Department programs.