The House on Wednesday added an amendment to a $1 trillion Farm Bill that would give states the right to screen food stamp applicants for drug use.
Democrats vigorously protested the provision, sponsored by Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., but no Democrats stood up to formally object or request a roll call vote and simply allowed it to pass by a quick voice vote and the strike of the gavel.
Republicans have been pushing for a more rigorous requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP.
The SNAP program costs have risen dramatically in recent years, from $35 billion in 2007 to $80 billion in 2012, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. The House bill would cut $20.5 billion from SNAP over the next decade.
Last year, the Department of Agriculture inspector general found that some food stamp recipients were using welfare benefits to buy drugs and guns.
Under current law, states can compel SNAP applicants to take a drug test only if they have been convicted on drug-related charges.
“This allows the states to ensure addicts and criminals are not taking food out of the mouths of hungry children,” Hudson said during debate.
Democrats lined up on the House floor to denounce the provision as an insult to food stamp users, who studies show are no more likely to use drugs than people who are not enrolled in the SNAP program.
“Why don’t we drug test all the members of Congress,” Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said. “Force everybody to go urinate in a cup. This is about demeaning poor people.”
Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., said drug testing a parent could end up hurting poor children.
“If a person in that household is denied food stamps, hungry children will be affected,” Moore said.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said that if food stamp recipients must be tested, the government should also screen the farmers who recieve crop insurance subsidies under the same Farm Bill. DeLauro said 26 farms would receive at least $1 million in federal crop insurance subsidies.
“Maybe we should start drug testing all the people who get some sort of benefit from the government,” DeLauro said.
The House will continue debating the Farm Bill on Thursday. If the House passes a bill, it would still have to be combined with a Senate version, which would cut only $4.1 billion from the SNAP program and does not include the drug testing provision.