Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) and CNN host Soledad O'Brien had a pointed exchange about food stamps Tuesday morning, with Sessions declaring "this government is wasting money every day" and that particular entitlement program was "totally exempted from any oversight and change."
A record 47.7 million people received food stamps in September, according to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) data.
In an interview that began with discussion about fiscal cliff negotiations, O'Brien brought up Sessions' earlier debate to reduce food stamp spending and asked if it should be part of a deficit reduction agreement.
"This program has been growing out of control at an incredible rate and a lot of people receiving benefits that do not qualify and should not receive them," he said. "But the focus of our government program should be, as always, in America to help people in need. No child, no person, who needs food, should be denied that food … We're not trying to deny people in need. But surely one would not contend that a program that has gone up four-fold in ten years and had the biggest increase ever just this month, at a time when unemployment dropped, doesn't need some review and to be made better."
O'Brien surmised the problem could be that more people could actually be on the program, saying less than 70 percent of those eligible sign up.
"You think there is no problem with the program?" Sessions asked.
"I'm not an elected official, so I have no idea," O'Brien replied. "Why not cut something else? There are other things that could be on the table before you pick a program that is feeding the nation's poor children."
"I'm not picking a program," Sessions said. "I say all programs need to be examined in this government. This government is wasting money every day. There's no doubt about that, and we've got to do better."