That odious Farm Bill we’ve been banging on about ultimately cleared both Houses of Congress this week, but not without controversy. Bob Casey voted against it, and issued a statement unloading on its draconian cuts to food subsidies, after making some favorable noises about a specialty crop program he worked on:
The bill also includes some very good policies including specialty crop provisions that are good for Pennsylvania that I worked to enact. Nonetheless, the bill includes significant cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program that will have a devastating impact on Pennsylvanians. According to the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, as a result of these changes 175,000 Pennsylvanian households will lose, on average, $65 for food each month. The SNAP program plays a critical role in the battle against hunger for children, seniors and families across our Commonwealth and throughout our nation. For every dollar invested in this program, it is estimated that the economy gets $1.75 in return. The program fuels consumer spending while providing much needed nutrition for 1.7 million Pennsylvanians. Therefore, I could not support this bill.”
Huh, so Casey worked to include a program in the bill, but ultimately voted against final passage. I thought Allyson Schwartz said that was rude or something. Not as rude as docking poor families $65 a month on their food bills perhaps, but rude in a process way, where it really counts.
The more interesting case is Mike Doyle’s reaction. Doyle was with President Obama in Pittsburgh when the House vote took place, so he missed the vote. But he issued the following statement on the bill:
“The Farm Bill will cut nearly $9 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), eliminating billions of meals across the country for low-income Americans.
“Poor people in Pennsylvania will be particularly hard-hit by these cuts. Approximately 175,000 households in Pennsylvania will lose an average of $65 per month in SNAP benefits, adding up to about $136.5 million every year. The farm bill SNAP cuts are on top of other recent SNAP cuts that reduced aid to hungry households by $183 million per year in Pennsylvania alone.
“I do not support legislation that guarantees billions of dollars to wealthy farmers while cutting desperately needed assistance to some of the poorest people in our country. In fact, I have consistently opposed cuts in federal safety net programs for the poor, the disabled, and the elderly. I strongly support improvements in federally funded anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs to close some of the gaping holes in our nation’s safety net.”
Reading the tea leaves here, I think you have to conclude that Allyson Schwartz will not be getting the Western PA Superblock of endorsements in the Democratic primary for Governor.
The major political figures in western PA are trying to maximize their clout in the primary by issuing a joint endorsement for one of the candidates, rather than splitting their influence in multiple directions.
I’ve heard from multiple attendees now that the western PA politicos were unimpressed with Schwartz’s performance at the Pittsburgh forum, even though it was characterized by Keegan Gibson of PoliticsPA as one of her better performances.
Perhaps Schwartz will pull ahead with such a large lead in the polls and money race that party leaders fall in line behind the clear favorite, but the current dynamics of the race being what they are, it seems increasingly clear to me that endorsements from Western PA politicians and party-aligned groups will play a decisive role in brokering the nomination, and not in Schwartz’s favor.