Conn. governor: Boehner remarks 'reprehensible'

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy (D) is fighting back against Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who said last week that some states are "cheating" by trying to get around new limits on food stamps.

Congress recently passed a new farm bill that lets people qualify for food stamp benefits when they receive at least $20 a year in home heating assistance, even if their income level might otherwise disqualify them. That's an increase from the $1 minimum home heating subsidy, and the change was meant to help reduce federal food stamp spending.

ADVERTISEMENT
Some states, including Connecticut, have responded by increasing people's annual benefit to at least $20 a year, a move that is likely to reduce the savings under the bill. Last week, Boehner said these states were unfairly undermining the bill, and said Republicans could seek new legislation to counter these state decisions.

"Since the passage of the farm bill, states have found ways to cheat, once again, on signing up people for food stamps," Boehner said. "And so, I would hope that the House would act to try to stop this cheating and this fraud from continuing."

In a Friday letter, Malloy rejected Boehner's comments and said the law allows states to offer additional food stamp benefits if they provide enough home heating aid.

"To characterize as cheating and fraud states' implementation of this provision is disingenuous at best and shameful at worst," Malloy wrote. "Clearly, Congress intended to grant states the authority to provide this vital benefit which is a lifeline to some of our most vulnerable constituents.

"Congress wrote the bill," he added. "Congress passed the bill. And now states are implementing the law, your reprehensible comments notwithstanding."

Malloy also argued that Boehner's comment "impugns the children, the elderly, the disabled, the low wage workers and veterans who receive such aid by implying that they are a party to something criminal."

Malloy said withholding $112 a month in food aid from people is "morally wrong," and quoted Pope Francis, who said it is "unfathomable" that there are "so many hungry children."

Malloy's letter sets the tone for what could become a bitter feud over food stamp benefits in the coming months, particularly if Boehner follows through on his threat to rein in state's actions. Other states that have boosted home heating aid to comply with the new food stamp limits are Montana, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

Last week, the New York Daily News reported that other Democrats were blasting Boehner's comments.

"Whoever thinks feeding the hungry and the poor is cheating and fraud must have no heart," said Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.).