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Published August 20 2010

Schafer: Congress needs to ‘be honest’

Former U.S. Agriculture Secretary and North Dakota Gov. Ed Schafer says members of Congress need to stop playing games with American taxpayers and, instead, be honest with how they plan to pay for costly legislation.

Schafer’s criticism Thursday came nine days after Congress passed a $26.1 billion aid package to help states preserve teaching jobs and cover Medicaid payments.

North Dakota’s all-Democrat congressional delegation and Democrats in Minnesota’s delegation voted in favor of the bill. Republicans strongly opposed it, calling the bill a mini-bailout for states.

To help cover the cost of the state aid package, the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – also known as food stamps – is poised to be cut by $12 billion in 2014, reducing a family of four’s monthly assistance by $59.

But such a heavy hit won’t ever happen and is merely a “ruse,” Schafer said during a news conference put on by the North Dakota Republican Party.

“They’re not going to drop food stamps. It’s not going to happen,” Schafer said. “That funding will be restored, and the taxpayers will once again be bearing the brunt of increased costs. … It’s absolutely shameful that Congress has stooped to playing political games with people’s nutritional needs.”

He chastised Congress for both approving the cut and also for the likely decision four years from now to restore funding.

Schafer conceded that that’s a catch-22 criticism but said the situation highlights what’s wrong with Washington.

“You’re not going to cut nutrition programs for people in need. Be honest about it,” Schafer said.

Democratic-NPL Party spokeswoman Meredith Pickett said the aid package was necessary due to the depths of the nationwide economic downturn and said Schafer is “just trying to make political hay out of a needed federal aid bill.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541