MN-02 : Food Stamps and How Kline Spent $2,609 Taxpayer Dollars

Food for thought … to address budget constraints, what should be “on the table” ?

The Republican-controlled House is preparing to vote on H.R. 5652, the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act. This bill would eliminate the discretionary cuts to 2013 spending that are required under the Budget Control Act, known as the “sequester,” and replace them with cuts to mandatory programs.

Last month, Politico (April 16, 2012) previewed the Republican plan (highlights) :

From food stamps to child tax credits and Social Service block grants, House Republicans began rolling out a new wave of domestic budget cuts Monday but less for debt reduction — and more to sustain future Pentagon spending without relying on new taxes.

Caught in the middle are not just Obama’s ideas but the working poor and long-term unemployed forced for the first time to rely on programs like food stamps in the current recession.

But what’s also driving the latest cuts is a newer narrative, voiced by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), that the social safety net is at risk of becoming a “hammock.”

If Chairman Ryan’s proposed food stamps — now titled SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) savings were achieved entirely through eligibility cuts, between 8 and 10 million people would be knocked off the program … The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that over a half-million Minnesotans would be impacted.

John Kline voted for the Ryan Budget Proposal that assumes food stamps (SNAP) would be cut beginning July 1.

Food stamps are part of the safety net … something that none of us hope to have to ever need and the current average benefit per participant is $132.98 per month (or $278 per household) … and the House Republicans want to cut it … not because the need has diminished but because a desire to prevent cuts to the Pentagon and military contractors … the House Budget Committee has approved a reduction of $57 a month to a family of four while the House Republicans on the Agriculture Committee have proposed changes that would reduce food stamp benefits for about 1.3 million households by $90 month.

That’s a choice that the House will debate (and most likely approve.)

Food for thought … should Congressional travel be “on the table” ?

Consider these rules :

Any per diem provided to Members or staff is intended to be expended only for official purposes related to the trip. Excess funds are to be returned to the Treasury.

Chairmen may authorize travel only for Members and staff of their committee. Spouses of Members may travel when necessary for protocol purposes only and at no cost to the federal government. Staff support for travel must be requested with the authorization to travel, and staff support must be provided by committee staff only.

The availability of Department of Defense aircraft to support congressional travel is extremely limited.

And so it was that John Boehner, along with his Chief of Staff, his Deputy Chief of Staff for Community Operations, the Assistant to the Speaker for Policy, a member of the Office of Interparliamentary Affairs, which oversees congressional delegation travel for the House, plus five Members of Congress and their spouses … including John and Vicky Kline … traveled January 8 through the 15th to Brazil, Columbia and Mexico.

The trip used military transportation … at Taxpayer Expense.
John Kline received $ 904 Per Diem in Brazil (January 8 – 10th)
John Kline received $ 1095 Per Diem in Columbia (January 10 – 13th)
John Kline received $ 610 Per Diem in Mexico (January 13 – 15th)

The REPORT OF EXPENDITURES FOR OFFICIAL FOREIGN TRAVEL does not indicate any return of monies to the US Treasury as has been done by other travelers and as required by policy … nor is there any record of repayment for Vicky Kline’s travel expenses as required by policy.

Speaker Boehner, his staff and “friends” got a week in the sun but What did the taxpayers get for Chairman Kline’s travels ?
Answer : the bill !