Roberts’ plan to cut food stamp program defeated in Senate

A plan by Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas to cut the food stamp program by more than $30 billion over 10 years failed Tuesday in a U.S. Senate vote.

Proposed as an amendment to the Senate farm bill, Roberts’ plan was defeated 58-40.

Shortly before the vote, Roberts said in a speech on the Senate floor that the amendment would help rein in the skyrocketing costs of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the anti-hunger program spent $78 billion to deliver food assistance to 45 million Americans in an average month in fiscal year 2011, up from $33 billion spent on 26 million Americans in 2005.

“My goal is simple: Restore integrity to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in a commonsense and comprehensive manner,” the Republican senator said. “Reforms will allow the federal government to continue to help those that truly need SNAP food benefits and assistance.”

The senator, who is up for re-election in 2014, has said the food stamp program must reform now in order to avoid a more drastic overhaul in the future.

Despite the failure of his amendment Tuesday, Roberts pledged to keep pushing for more comprehensive food stamp reforms.

“We had a golden opportunity to improve an important program while saving money for taxpayers who are fed up with wasteful spending,” Roberts said in a statement after the vote. “This goes to show how difficult it is for Washington to spend smartly and cut spending despite our dire financial straits.”

The Senate farm bill would cut $4 billion from food stamps. The House of Representatives version would slash $20 billion.