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Chairman Conaway Delivers Remarks at AEI on SNAP

"The path to prosperity is paved with hard work and a good job, period."

This morning, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (TX-11) discussed the proposed improvements to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) within the Agriculture and Nutrition Act (H.R. 2) at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Video and comments from Chairman Conaway below:

Chairman Conaway's opening remarks:

Well thanks everybody. Robert, thanks for having me this morning. I appreciate that, it’s good to be with you. I’ll make a couple of comments real quickly. I think the better spent time would be flushing out some of the questions that you have. Most of you have seen now the bill has been out there about a month. Most of those individual details. The goal was to put out the best policy we could. We started the review three years ago ignoring the costs of the program, looking at just what works, what doesn’t work, where the moral hazards associated with the program, how could we craft the very best policy we had, knowing of course that every policy of course has to be scored, you always have to figure out what it costs. We didn’t want to skew that—what we are looking at policy-wise with costs, until the appropriate time. Because if you could put the best policy forward then when you try to figure out if you can afford it or not, if you cannot afford it then at least the adjustments you made to the policy is toward a goal, toward that end game, and that’s where we started.

I told Robert a while ago this is the first time since I have been in Congress for 13 plus years where the policy has driven the product, unrelated to a skewing as a result of CBO scoring. If you look at our tax bill, every tax bill has got to squeeze into a particular dollar fit, dollar amount, and that adjusts the policy to something that might not make the most sense. Well this time, the score showed that it was deficit neutral, which is what we’ve committed to do and made that bringing it forward.

The path to prosperity is paved with hard work and a good job, period. And, that’s what we want to try to get to. We want to help families. We want to have an impact on the lives of people. The number of folks on SNAP, important of course. The amount of money we spend on SNAP, important of course. But, what I am looking for is that success story which was shared to us by a young woman at one of our four listening sessions that we held across the country. [she] stood at a microphone—very bravely—stood at the microphone and said I am the reason SNAP needs to stay in place. She said, I was a single mom, an 18 year old single mom of a daughter, of a 3 year old, and I did not like my future. And I wanted to go to college, I wanted something better for my daughter and I. And, SNAP, other programs with my hard work, my sweat equity, got me through college, got that first teacher’s job, got a master’s degree, she is now in administration. And, now, for her and her family, public assistance is defined by what she and her daughter do for other people, not what is done for them. That’s the success we want. That’s the end result we want, that should be our yard stick of where we want to take all of these programs, but the narrow one I have jurisdiction over is SNAP. That is the success we want to drive and we think we reforms we put in place will actually do that and have the kind of impact that’s important.

SNAP is an important program for the beneficiaries as well as for tax payers. Our goal was to make it better, focus it more on work, focus it on impacts, the positive impacts that it can have on families. Long-term dependence on public programs of any kind is not a part of the American dream that I am familiar with, and I don’t think anybody out there believes that as well. So, this idea is to get folks back out there on their own two feet, on that ladder of success, on ramp to prosperity, on ramp to opportunity— whatever phraseology you want to use—that is where we are headed with this program. With that Robert, let’s just go to the questions and see what everyone else wants to talk about.