Residents Form Soup Line At Congressman's Office, Protest A Vote

Jun 14, 2013

Credit WAMC/Allison Dunne

Some two dozen low-income Hudson Valley residents showed up outside the office of their Congressman Thursday to express disappointment and anger over his recent vote concerning a national food stamp program.

Many were from the Newburgh chapter of Community Voices Heard Power, and they walked a few blocks from their chapter office to the lobby of the building housing freshman Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney’s district office. They hung a banner that read “Maloney’s Soup Kitchen”, and formed a line, filling bowls with turkey noodle soup. They chastised Maloney for his vote in May to cut $20.5 billion in the national food stamp program, known as SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Here’s Tiara Velez.

Maloney says his vote on the House Agriculture Committee has been misunderstood, that he wanted to get the five-year Farm Bill out of committee onto the House floor, where he says the massive cut has a better chance of being reduced. The Farm Bill contains the SNAP program. Recently, Maloney told WAMC:

In fact, the Senate version of the Farm Bill that passed Monday contains about $4 billion in SNAP cuts, and Maloney has said he hopes the House comes close to such a figure.

Meanwhile, low-income residents who knocked on Maloney’s district office door were invited in by District Director Edward Brancati. Maloney was in Washington. Cynthia Gilkeson spoke on behalf of the residents before handing over a letter.

She continues, and Brancati replies.

Residents then wanted to know why Maloney voted as he did if he does not support such a cut.

He refers to Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Jim McGovern.

Maloney has called the $20.5 billion dollar cut mean-spirited, and says he agrees with those who are concerned about the food stamp cuts.

In the letter handed to Brancati, the Community Voices Heard Power members ask the Congressman to do three things. First: to co-sponsor the Inclusive Prosperity Act that would tax Wall Street firm transactions, providing revenue for such programs as SNAP. The bill, also known as the Robin Hood Tax Campaign, is sponsored by Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison. Second, they ask Maloney to draft and circulate a “Dear Colleagues” letter in which he commits to fighting for revenues and standing firm against cuts to critical services.

Finally, they invite him to join the SNAP challenge, and live on food stamps for one week. As the Newburgh and Poughkeepsie residents were making the request, more than 25 Democratic members of Congress began a national SNAP challenge, including McGovern of Massachusetts, and New York’s Joseph Crowley, who represents portions of the Bronx and Queens. No word yet on whether Maloney will take them up on any of the requests.