Senate Democrats

Reid Remarks On Hunger And Republican Attempts To Shut Down The Government

“In the richest country in the world, 1 in 6 people are in danger of going to bed hungry tonight. And half of those people are children.  But despite these sobering numbers – and despite the difficult economic times – House Republicans… are determined to gut the nutrition assistance program.”

“Watching the Republican Party self-destruct would be good political theater if there were not so much at stake. The economic consequences of a government shutdown are deadly serious. The economic consequences of a first-ever default on the full faith and credit of the United States of America are deadly serious.”

“In spite of warnings from the largest business organization in the country, Republicans either don’t realize the stakes or they don’t care. They’re willing to put the nation’s economic recovery at risk to make an ideological point.” 

Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding HouseRepublicans’ push to cut food stamps, and on the importance of averting a government shutdown. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

Five decades ago, Vice President Hubert Humphrey predicted it was possible to eradicate poverty in America. This is what he said: “We can banish hunger from the face of the earth.” The year was in 1965.

But today, in 2013, there are more than 50 million people living in the United States – including 150,000 families in Nevada alone – who don’t know where their next meal will come from. In the richest country in the world, 1 in 6 people are in danger of going to bed hungry tonight. And half of those people are children.

But despite these sobering numbers – and despite the difficult economic times – House Republicans have turned their backs on American families struggling to put food on the table. It’s true the bill being considered in the House of Representatives today would save $40 billion. But how would it save that $40 billion? By snatching food out of the hands of millions of the neediest children and their families. House Republicans are determined to gut the nutrition assistance program, although 9 out of 10 recipients are families with children, senior citizens or people with disabilities.

And these needy Americans aren’t exactly living a life of excess on the government dime. They get about $4.53 in food assistance each day. That’s enough money to buy a pound of hamburger or a gallon of milk – but not enough to buy both in the same day.

It’s possible to make important reforms to both farm and food stamp programs without balancing the budget on the backs of hungry Americans. But instead of cutting waste and eliminating fraud, the House bill will cut school lunches for 210,000 children and eliminate food assistance for 170,000 veterans.

There is another way. The bipartisan Senate agriculture bill, passed under the leadership of Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, saves $23 billion without forcing needy children to skip meals.

If our farm bill came to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote, it would pass overwhelmingly with support from both Republicans and Democrats. But House Republican leadership refuses to consider any bill that can garner votes from both parties. Leave it to House Republicans to take the hard way whenever possible.

These same reckless Republicans are also determined to take the uphill route to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government. Instead of doing what’s necessary to keep the economy on firm footing, Republicans are obsessed with denying and undermining the law of the land – Obamacare.

Watching the Republican Party self-destruct would be good political theater if there were not so much at stake. The economic consequences of a government shutdown are deadly serious. The economic consequences of a first-ever default on the full faith and credit of the United States of America are deadly serious.

But don’t take my word for it. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce wrote to members of the House yesterday asking them to prevent a government shutdown and ease fears of default. This is what the Chamber wrote: “It is not in the best interest of the U.S. business community or the American people to risk even a brief government shutdown that might trigger disruptive consequences or raise new policy uncertainties washing over the U.S. economy. Likewise, the U.S. Chamber respectfully urges the House of Representatives to raise the debt ceiling in a timely manner and thus eliminate any question of threat to the full faith and credit of the United States government.”

But in spite of warnings from the largest business organization in the country, Republicans either don’t realize the stakes or they don’t care. They’re willing to put the nation’s economic recovery at risk to make an ideological point. What remains to be seen is how many innocent Americans will be hurt by their reckless political games. How many children will go to school without breakfast? How many workers will lose their jobs, how many seniors will lose their retirements and how many businesses will lose their hard-earned investments if Republicans tank the economy? I only hope the anarchists Republicans in the House of Representatives come to their senses before it’s too late.

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