This vote was on an amendment that would have required states to use stricter procedures to verify that recipients of federal food assistance have incomes low enough to qualify for the program.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) offered the amendment during consideration of a bill that authorizes federal programs that assist farmers and low-income Americans. Sen. Sessions’ amendment would have required Americans to go through additional assessments of their income and financial assets when applying for benefits through the program commonly known as “food stamps.”
Sen. Sessions argued that his amendment would have helped reduce the growth in government programs to help low-income Americans buy food, which had ballooned in cost since the financial collapse of 2008, and ensured the assistance goes only to those who truly need it.
“This is not just a question of whether we have the money,” Sen. Sessions said. “We also have to ask: Is the benefit going to the right people? Is the money being expended wisely? Is it helping people become independent? Is it encouraging people to look for ways to be productive and be responsible for their families? Or does it create dependency on a series of government programs?”
Opponents of Sen. Sessions’ amendment argued that by cutting off food assistance, it would have amounted to another blow to working families already struggling to make ends meet.
“It is true that food assistance has gone up as the economy has had a rough time. As unemployment goes up, food costs go up,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said. “This helps families in a disaster. Unfortunately, this amendment would completely change the structure of food help. It would dramatically affect children and families. For example, it would affect someone's ability to get to work because the value of their car would somehow be reflected in a way that would require them to possibly give up their car when they are trying to get to work in order to be able to put food on the table for their families. It makes no sense.”
The Senate defeated Sen. Sessions’ amendment by a vote of 43-56. Voting “yea” were 42 Republicans and 1 Democrat. Voting “nay” were 52 Democrats and 4 Republicans. As a result, the Senate defeated the effort to require states to use stricter procedures to verify that recipients of federal food assistance have incomes low enough to qualify for the program.