updated 7/28/2013 11:17:23 PM ET 2013-07-29T03:17:23

On Sunday's "MHP," Republican Congressman Paul Ryan was offered the chance to hear this week from someone who relies on the benefits he wants to cut. Will he take it?

If Democratic California Rep. Barbara Lee were in charge of the House Budget Committee, she’d have Melissa Harris-Perry guest Tianna Gaines-Turner speak as a witness this week when it holds a “progress report” hearing on the war on poverty. Because she can only make suggestions, Rep. Lee promised on Sunday’s show to ask Republican Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin to add Gaines-Turner to the witness list and hear her first-hand account of the realities of living on public assistance.

The list of witnesses on the House Budget committee’s website currently has only four names, and none of the those scheduled are currently dealing with poverty.

Lee, who spoke on the show about her own experience living on public assistance in the 1970s, supports maintaining and expanding the social safety net for those Americans “who need the support from their government so they can live the American Dream.”

Whether Ryan, whose monthly stipend for coffee is more than a person who gets SNAP benefits receives for all food each month, takes Lee’s suggestion remains to be seen.

Watch the full conversation about living on public assistance, food insecurity, and the struggle to escape poverty.

Video: Rep. Lee invites mother on food stamps to testify before Paul Ryan

  1. Closed captioning of: Rep. Lee invites mother on food stamps to testify before Paul Ryan

    >>> we've been talking about the proliferation of low-wage jobs in our economy but now i want to talk about the reality of living on the minimum wage . our federal minimum wage leaves many families below the poverty line , even if the adults work full-time. 50 million americans are at risk of going hungry. almost a quarter of american children are in poverty. and yet there is a myth that those without enough are not working or, worse, that they're not even trying. listen to what congressman paul ryan said in an interview with the nbc news in plain sight poverty project.

    >> i think what we're missing in this debate is when we're talking about reviving civil society , when we're talking about reviving community groups, when we're talking about reviving churches, what we mean when we say that is people themselves need to get involved in their communities to help people. that's what solidarity is. that means every individual takes responsibility for helping their brother, their sister, meaning their fellow citizen in their communities, and that act of involvement, of human beings coming together to help one another, that's so much better than some cold government program.

    >> joining us now is tiana gaines-turner of the witness to hunger project , who along with her husband and three children is up for renewal of her federal health and food benefits next month. tiana, thank you for joining us again.

    >> thank you for having me again.

    >> what's your response to congressman ryan there?

    >> i used to call him the rrs, the rhyming radicals. that's what i call them. because they have no clue. i said last time i was here everyone has something to say about someone who lives in hunger and poverty but yet they've never set down to the table. they're not involved at the table. they're making decisions which affects our lives without even having conversations with us. they think they have the answers.

    >> so tianna, this is for me the moment where this is such a great privilege having a television show because you are one of the most exquisite speakers on this whom i've ever encountered.

    >> thank you.

    >> and congresswoman lee is one of the most important members of the progressive caucus in our u.s. house of representatives . what would you like to say to the congresswoman? you are at the table together at this moment.

    >> i would just like to say first it's an honor to be sitting here and thank you for having me. and you know, have more people who are going through these programs at the table, at the conversations. not after the fact. not after both aisles have already voted or they've set in some type of back house and made these decisions and oh, you know, something that they may have read in the paper. you know, invite us to the table. have us sit there and you hear my story and you understand. walk in my shoes. that's what i tell everybody. it's easy for people to sit back and judge me without even asking me. and for those who are watching this show right now who live in hunger and poverty, stand up. don't be silent. don't be silent by the system. don't be silent by the case workers. don't be silent. stand up and be an advocate for yourself. people need to understand what you're going through.

    >> let me just say to you first of all you're very courageous and remarkable.

    >> thank you.

    >> and i'm going to ask, i'm on paul ryan 's hearing. and they're having a hearing, we're having a hearing led by paul ryan on wednesday to talk about poverty. i'm going to ask him if you can come to be a witness, first of all. secondly, let me just say how proud i am of you for speaking out because i was on public assistance. i was on food stamps .

    >> right.

    >> you know, i had to struggle through in the early '70s raising my two kids. and it was really hard. so i just have to say to you you are absolutely correct. we need more people who are struggling, who need a bridge over troubled waters , who don't need section 8 cut, who don't need snap, food stamps cut, who really need just that support from their government so that they can move forward and live the american dream as you and your husband are really remacable in showing can be done.

    >> right.

    >> so congratulations. i hope i can see you on wednesday. but i'm going to ask.

    >> i hope so.

    >> congressman ryan to invite you as a witness.

    >> we're going to take a quick break and come right back because i do want to talk to you a little about -- you and i are both moms, and we talked back in the spring about how do you feed the kids in the summer when school's out? when we come back. [ male


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