Dem uses steak, caviar to shame members on food stamps

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) on Thursday used food props on the House floor to portray members of Congress as steak-eating, vodka-swilling socialites in a bid to get Congress to reject a GOP bill cutting $40 billion in food stamps.

On the House floor, Speier said members of Congress typically get rich food allowances when they travel overseas and therefore get to indulge. But she said that stands in contrast to the policy Republicans want to force on lower-income people by passing new limits on food stamps.

"Some of these same members travel to foreign countries under the guise of official business. They dine at lavish restaurants, eating steak, vodka and even caviar," she said as she held up each food item as she spoke.

"They receive money to do this. That's right, they don't pay out of pocket for these meals."


Speier said one member was recently given $127.41 a day for a trip to Argentina. "He probably had a fair amount of steak," she said.

Another was given $3,588 as a food and lodging allowing during a six-day trip to Russia. That was an apparent reference to Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who reportedly received this allowance.

Speier did not name the member but said there are 21,000 food stamp recipients in his district. "One of those people who is on food stamps could live a year on what this congressman spent on food and lodging for six days," she said.

Speier also noted that 20 members of Congress went to Ireland this year and got a $166 per-day allowance for food. "These members didn't pay a dime," she said.

Several members of both parties were invited on that, including Reps. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and John Larson (D-Conn.).

The House bill under consideration today would eliminate a waiver that lets states offer people access to the food stamp program for longer than three months. Under current law, states can extend food stamp benefits past three months for able-bodied people who are working or preparing for work as part of a job training program.

Current law also allows states to waive that work requirement during times of high unemployment or scarce jobs. But the bill up today would eliminate that waiver option, which opponents say will put people at risk in states where jobs and job-training programs are scarce.

The bill also makes other reforms to the food stamp program that the Congressional Budget Office says would kick 3.8 million people off the food stamp rolls in the first year.