Sessions says USDA's Vilsack dodging questions on food stamp spending

Sessions, the ranking member of the Budget Committee, has pressed Vilsack for months to answer questions about how USDA is spending money under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the federal food stamp program. Sessions has written Vilsack a few letters asking for explanations about USDA's attempt to entice Mexican immigrants to sign up for SNAP, and whether USDA is properly enforcing U.S. law that denies people entry into the country if they are likely to become a "public charge" that uses federal programs.

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In a letter earlier this year, Vilsack said USDA is in compliance with all U.S. laws, but Sessions rejected this explanation and asked for more details by mid-October. Vilsack failed to meet Sessions's deadline.

"I've been asking questions of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and he provided some information that was very troubling to me," Sessions said Tuesday. "I've submitted some additional information to him, and now we're not getting any more answers. They just shut the door.

"The secretary basically said, well, you're a member of the Senate, you're asking too many questions, I'm not giving you any more information. You raise concerns when I give you information. You point out problems. I don't like that, you're not getting anymore."

Sessions added that he understands that USDA is not in the process of writing a reply letter to his office. "I'm asking about how he's spending money, and he doesn't want to respond," Sessions said.

Later in the day, Sessions and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) wrote a short, two-sentence letter to Vilsack saying that they would both "appreciate a response" to Sessions's October 9 letter by December 17, next Monday.

— This story was updated at 6:42 p.m.