Sept. 25, 2013 — We were concerned several weeks ago when Hal Rogers, our congressman, voted in favor of a farm bill that did not fund food stamps, now called SNAP for supplemental nutrition assistance program.
It was a strange decision from our perspective because Rogers represents the congressional district with reportedly the largest number of food stamp recipients in the nation.
And the vote was even more significant because the Somerset Republican is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and is widely respected in Congress for his fiscal knowledge and personal integrity.
He said at the time of the first vote that food stamps would be addressed later and that his constituents should not worry about going hungry or something to that effect.
In fact, it was just last month that Rogers gave our statehouse reporter, Ronnie Ellis, this statement about the future of SNAP:
“I’m going to protect that program, whatever it takes.”
For the record, this newspaper has praised our congressman for his legislative skills and his deep commitment to the residents of the Fifth Congressional District.
But now we are wondering if he truly will keep his word because last week he voted with 216 other members of Congress to slash food stamp spending by $40 billion over the next 10 years.
It is estimated that 14 million Americans now receiving that benefit will be removed from the rolls by 2023.
Since Rogers’ district has the most food stamp recipients now, it stands to reason that the folks he represents will feel the greatest impact.
In his defense, the veteran congressman has acknowledged that SNAP has problems and should be restructured to make sure that the neediest don’t go hungry.
The House bill he supported last week still spends more than $700 billion over 10 years for food stamps but it also contains language requiring “able-bodied adults” under 50 with no dependents to find a job or enroll in training programs to avoid losing their benefits after three months.
No pun intended, but Rogers does have a full plate as the Congress and President Obama battle over keeping the federal government operating after Sept. 30.
We are concerned that he is being influenced by ultra-conservative, Republican members of Congress who are so focused on defunding Obamacare that they are willing to shut down the government.
We believe the SNAP program needs scrutiny but this latest vote sends a message that perhaps Rogers no longer really cares what happens to it.
Congressman, please say it isn’t so.