First Cut Reaches the Floor

, Melissa Barnhart, Leave a comment

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) announced Tuesday that during its first week, more than 280,000 Americans cast their votes on YouCut, and selected the new non-reformed welfare program as the first proposed spending cut they want members of the House to bring to the floor for debate. If the measure were to pass, Cantor estimates that the cut could save taxpayers up-to $2.5 billion, annually.

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) will take the proposed cut—that he and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), head of the Republican Study Committee’s Budget and Spending Task Force, devised—to the House floor for an up-or-down vote.

On Wednesday, a new list of proposed spending cuts (for week two of this initiative), was posted on the YouCut website. Every week Americans can vote—online or text message—for one of five measures to cut spending, and the proposal that receives the most votes will be taken to the House floor for a vote as to whether or not members will debate the bill. The site also asks voters to submit their own ideas to reduce spending—more than 15,000 suggestions have already been received.

In a statement released by Cantor’s office on Tuesday, the GOP explains the purpose of this proposed cut: “In 1996 Congress and the President [Clinton] joined together to implement a bipartisan reform of our nation’s welfare system. Since then welfare caseloads dropped by an unprecedented 60% as work and earnings by low-income parents rose by record levels. Despite the bipartisan support for the 1996 reforms, some members, led by reform opponent Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), included several provisions in the 2009 stimulus law to undermine the successful welfare reforms—including a new ‘welfare emergency fund’ designed to promote welfare dependence.

“The welfare emergency fund provided states with up to $5 billion in new federal funds in 2009 and 2010 if they increase welfare caseloads, among other outcomes. Of that $5 billion thus far $2.4 billion has been spent; including, $1 billion for ‘basic assistance’ (i.e. welfare checks), $1 billion for ‘non-recurrent short-term assistance,’ and under $400 million (16%) for ‘subsidized employment.’

“Here is just one example of how states spent this money on ‘non-recurrent short-term assistance.’ Last summer New York used welfare emergency funds to make one-time $200 per child ‘back to school’ payments to welfare and food stamp recipients. But many recipients didn’t use the money for back to school supplies. As CBS News reported, the funds were used in many cases to purchase ‘flat screen TVs, iPods and video gaming systems;’ and convenience stores in certain areas ‘noted marked increases in beer, lotto and cigarette sales.’

“Despite the documented waste of taxpayer funds, the majority in Congress is proposing to continue the program for another year and add another $2.5 billion in new money.”

Melissa Barnhart is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.

 

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