Welfare-Reform Bill Would Ban Taxpayer-Funded Abortion Through 77 Welfare Programs

By Christopher Goins | November 18, 2011 | 2:56 PM EST

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – Taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be going to fund abortion through federal welfare programs, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said earlier this week.

“If you look at the abortion issue in America the country is roughly evenly divided,” Vitter said. “However, if you ask folks should we use taxpayer dollars when its so controversial and at least half the country have fundamental moral problems with it, the overwhelming majority say, no, we shouldn't force taxpayers to be funding abortion."

The Louisiana Republican is a Senate co-sponsor of the Welfare Reform Act of 2011 and made his remarks during a Capitol Hill news conference on Wednesday announcing the bill, which would ban abortion funding through federal welfare programs.

Vitter bristled when asked by a reporter whether the welfare-reform bill took into account statistics that purportedly show that abortion lowers poverty and crime.

“I wouldn't say abortion lowers poverty and crime, I'd say abortion kills innocent life and lowers those numbers,” Vitter said. “And so it’s a very offensive solution to issues like poverty and crime for a lot of Americans."

The bill specifically prohibits federal taxpayer dollars from going to abortion in any of the 77 means-tested federal welfare programs.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), the prime sponsor of the legislation, said there is a "broad consensus" that taxpayers should not be forced to fund abortions.

"As we look at the different levels of spending, we generally have bipartisan agreement that we should not be using federal dollars to fund abortion and that has creeped in a lot of areas --not just welfare, but many other government programs," DeMint said.

Proponents say their bill will enforce a spending cap on welfare spending through the budget resolution and save $2.43 trillion dollars by 2021 by gradually reducing the costs of the existing welfare programs as unemployment decreases.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said means-tested welfare spending has ballooned by 293 percent over the past two decades and outpaced the growth of Medicare and Social Security spending combined.

Lee said that, according to White House statistics, at the current rate of spending the federal government will incur interest costs within the range of $1 trillion per year.

"Let's think about what that does for a minute," Lee said. "When we reach that point -- which may be a decade away, maybe a little bit sooner than that -- once we reach that point we'll be spending between $700-800 billion a year more on interest than what we are currently spending," he said.

The measure would place a spending cap on all means-tested welfare spending at 2007 levels, to go into effect when unemployment falls below 7.5 percent, or in 2015 at the latest.

"We are assuming at one point we are going to come out of this recession. This bill will be in place to help pull back spending to pre-recession levels," DeMint said.

The bill would open up transparency within the existing 77 programs by requiring the president's budget to disclose all means-tested welfare expenditures, DeMint said. It would also end food stamp use at fast food restaurants by requiring the Secretary of Agriculture to limit the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to “essential foods” only.

The bill also empowers the states to successfully reduce poverty and increase self-sufficiency by reallocating $300 million of current welfare spending towards grants to states. It also removes the 13.6 percent increase in food stamp benefits created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Sens Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) are also cosponsors. A companion bill has been offered in the House by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio.).