When asked in an interview on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday whether Americans are "entitled to eat," Republican Rep. Adrian Smith (Neb.) avoided giving a straight answer. The question arose as Smith discussed a proposal in President Trump's budget to slash funding for food stamps, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), by $193 billion over 10 years. Nearly 43 million Americans received SNAP benefits in 2017.
Smith argued that "very minor shifts" to SNAP could be "very effective in terms of fiscal policy" so long as it doesn't "harm the most vulnerable among us," but NPR host Scott Simon pressed him on whether food should really be up for negotiation. "Well, let me ask you this bluntly: Is every American entitled to eat?" Simon said.
"Well, they — nutrition, obviously, we know is very important," Smith said. Simon pointed out that food is more than just "important" for humans. "[I]t's essential for life," Simon said, before asking Smith once again whether every American is "entitled to eat." Smith conceded that food is "essential."
Simon tried one more time to get a direct answer from Smith. He also asked if food stamps "ought to be that ultimate guarantor." "I think that we know that, given the necessity of nutrition, there could be a number of ways that we could address that," Smith said, not ruling out the possibility that he'd vote for a budget that cuts food stamps.
Listen to the full interview below. Becca Stanek