Republican Rep. Adrian Smith of Nebraska refused to say on May 27 if all Americans are entitled to eat food.
Smith was being interviewed on NPR’s "Weekend Edition Saturday" about President Donald Trump's budget proposal, which cuts the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps.
NPR host Scott Simon asked Smith: "Well, let me ask you this bluntly -- is every American entitled to eat?"
"Nutrition, obviously, we know is very important," Smith replied. "And I would hope that we can look to..."
"Well, not just important, it's essential for life. Is every American entitled to eat?" Simon asked.
"It is essential," Smith answered. "It is essential."
"So is every American entitled to eat, and is food stamps something that ought to be that ultimate guarantor?" Simon probed.
"I think that we know that, given the necessity of nutrition, there could be a number of ways that we could address that," Smith responded.
Simon asked Smith if he would vote for a budget that included cuts to food stamps. Smith would still not give a definitive answer:
I want to look at an entire budget, look at all of the details. I'm still sifting through the details of the newly released budget. But we know that Congress ultimately has the say. I look for there to be a lot of changes made in the House and the Senate to the president's budget.
Huffington Post noted that the Trump budget would cut food stamps by $193 billion over 10 years, which is more than 25 percent of the program's estimated budget.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, whose agency oversees food stamps, recently told lawmakers: "The legislative proposal going forward is obviously something you and all of your members in Congress will deal with and have your stamp on that."
Perdue also stood by his previous comment that the food stamp program isn't broken and doesn't need to be fixed.
Huffington Post reported that over 42 million Americans use food stamps, which usually comes to about $125 per month per person.
The biggest cut to food stamps by the Trump budget is a directive to states to gradually cover 25 percent of the federal program. The budget also allows states to reduce the food stamp levels, which states would likely do if they are not able to cover the federal program.
Trump has also proposed cutting food stamps to able-bodied adults who are unemployed or don't have dependents. These people are already restricted to three months of food stamps, but states are allowed to waive that rule in areas of high joblessness. The Trump plan would raise that high unemployment rule, which would make it harder for states to get waivers to help those Americans with food stamps.
Source: NPR, Huffington Post / Photo credit: Online Guide to House Members and Senators/Wikimedia Commons