House votes to let states run drug tests on food stamp applicants

The House late Wednesday voted to give states the authority to conduct drug testing on people applying for food stamps under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

By voice vote, members approved the idea as an amendment to the farm bill. The amendment was proposed by Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.). Hudson said the proposal would help ensure SNAP benefits go to needy families and children.

"If adopted, this amendment would join a list of good-government reforms contained in the farm bill to save taxpayer money and ensure integrity and accountability within our nutrition system," Hudson said.

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"From preventing lottery winners from receiving food stamps, to closing loopholes and preventing illegal immigrants from receiving benefits, I commend the chairman and ranking member on the work done to reform the food stamps program in the farm bill."

Democrats were outraged at the proposal, and said that by proposing it, Republicans are implying that people on food stamps use drugs. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) said studies have shown people using SNAP are no more likely than nonusers to be using drugs.

Moore also said the proposal was unconstitutional, and said states are already allowed to test SNAP users if they have a drug conviction. She also said the GOP proposal is meant to humiliate people using food stamps.

"It costs a lot of public money just to humiliate people," she said. "It'll cost $75 for one of these drug tests, and for what purpose? Just to criminalize and humiliate poor people."

"This is about demeaning poor people," Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) added. "And we've been doing this time and time again on this House floor."

But Republicans said some reforms are needed to keep SNAP spending down.

"With a $17 trillion national debt, we must give states all the tools they need in order to make sure SNAP funding goes to the people most in need," Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) said.

Despite Democratic opposition, the amendment was approved by a voice vote, and no Democrat asked for a recorded vote.

The House was debating various amendments to the farm bill Wednesday night dealing with issues such as SNAP and farm commodity programs.

In another voice vote, the House approved an amendment from Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), which would require states to take back electronically issued SNAP benefits that have not been used by a household after 60 days.

Members also approved language from Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) that would end an agreement the USDA has with the Mexican government called the Partnership for Nutrition Assistance Program. Republicans say this program is being used to enroll illegal immigrants in the SNAP program.

— This story was updated at 8:05 p.m.