• USDA Lashes Out Against Gov. Walker For Food Stamp Lawsuit

    U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called Republican Gov. Scott Walker ignorant of the law Wednesday for filing a lawsuit in response to not being allowed to drug-test food stamp recipients.

    The Walker administration filed the lawsuit Tuesday against Vilsack and other top officials at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) after the agency informed the state it could not drug-test those on food stamps. The agency oversees the welfare program, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

    “Gov. Walker hasn’t read the law,” Vilsack told The Huffington Post. “It’s always a good idea before you start litigation to understand what the law is.”

    Walker is running in the Republican primary for president. The main problem is unclear federal rules regarding whether states can drug-test those on the welfare program.

    “There is a clear distinction in the law between welfare recipients and public benefit recipients,” Vilsack noted. “The distinction is important as it relates to the ability to drug test or provide additional burdens.”

    The conflict centers on a 1996 reform that allows states to drug test recipients of certain welfare programs. The USDA maintains SNAP is not included in the programs for which states can drug test.

    “The law that authorizes and approves drug testing is for people who are receiving cash assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program,” Vilsack detailed. “There is a clear distinction in the law between welfare recipients and public benefit recipients, and the distinction is important as it relates to the ability to drug test or provide additional burdens.”

    Wisconsin first proposed drug-testing food stamp recipients in the most recent state budget, signed by Walker on Sunday. The program is run by both federal and state agencies. Georgia proposed a similar policy but in 2014 the USDA held the same position that the state could not.

    “You just wonder whether this is real or it’s politics,” Vilsack concluded. “If it’s real, it’s unfortunate. If it’s politics, it’s even more so.”

    SNAP is the nation’s largest food-assistance program. According to a report from the USDA, the program has increased from 17 million participants in 2000 to nearly 47 million in 2014. The size alone has prompted concern among many lawmakers of the potential for abuse.

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