“Thank you, Madam Speaker. I thank the Chairman, the gentleman from Oklahoma for the leadership that he has demonstrated throughout this process on the farm bill, and know that his heart has been placed into this process and know that the outcome will be one that has been benefited by his leadership throughout several years – I thank him for his dedication and his leadership on this issue.
“Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act.
“This bill is designed to give people a hand when they need it most. Most people don’t choose to be on food stamps. Most people want a job. Most people want to go out and be productive so that they can earn a living, so that they can support a family, so that they can have hope for a more prosperous future. They want what we want. There may be some who choose to abuse this system – that’s not out of the realm of possibility – frankly it’s wrong. It’s wrong for hardworking, middle class Americans to pay for that.
“So Madam Speaker, I want to tell you a story that’s very fitting for this bill.
“There was a woman from Arkansas, her name was Sherry. She moved there with her two children – ages 11 and 14. She lived with her mom and the four of them shared a two bedroom apartment. Sherry didn't have much work experience as a stay-at-home Mom. Sherry applied for help through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, otherwise known as the TANF program – the welfare program President Clinton and a Republican Congress reformed in 1996 to impose work requirements for able-bodied adults.
“Sherry’s case officer worked with her to obtain an on-the-job training position at a local hotel, where she was hired for an entry level position, before quickly being promoted to being a team leader.
“As the Department of Workforce Services in Arkansas reported, Sherry’s welfare case was closed and she continued her job at that hotel, a job she loved, going so far as to equate her co-workers with family. And like a family, when the hotel was remodeled, they gave her hotel furniture for her own apartment.
“Now, Madam Speaker, there is dignity in work. And I’m supporting this bill today because I want to see, as I know all of us do, more success stories like Sherry’s. The reforms made by this bill will put people on the path to self-sufficiency and independence. I also want to say that there’s been a lot of demagoguery around this bill – and unfortunately a lot of misinformation. The truth is anyone subjected to the work requirements under this bill, who are able-bodied under 50, will not be denied benefits if only they are willing to sign up for the opportunity for work. There is no requirement that jobs exist. There are workfare programs, there are options under the bill for community service. This bill is a bill that points to the dignity of a job – to help people when they need it most with what they want most, which is a job.
“Again, I’d like to thank my colleague from Oklahoma, Chairman Frank Lucas, for his leadership, and the gentleman from Florida, Congressman Steve Southerland, for their hard work on this issue.
“I would also like to recognize a member of my staff who I can tell you has personally been a teacher to me on welfare policy and how the wrong policies can destroy a person’s self-identity and lull them into a life of dependence, but how the right policies can help lift people out of poverty and put them on a path to independence. Roger Mahan, who is here in the chamber, has dedicated his professional life to helping lawmakers adopt the right policies. I am privileged to have Roger as part of my team and as my teacher. This House and this country benefit from his knowledge and dedication on this very emotional issue and I thank him for his service and guidance.
“Madam Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.”