Republicans in the U.S House of Representatives made a bold and risky move this week to divide food stamp funding/nutrition from farm programs in a new farm bill, H.R. 2642. Today, representatives argued, in a very passionate debate at times, the merits of splitting the farm bill in two. After hours of extended debate, the House passed a split farm bill 216-208 with 10+ members not present/voting. The modified bill includes all the non-nutrition elements of the previous farm bill, includes all the amendments adopted on the floor last month not related to nutrition, and repeals the 1949 permanent law upon which farm bills have operated as a backstop for five decades.
Last month for the first time in history, the House voted down the $500 billion five-year bill, 80% of which goes for feeding programs. Liberals objected to a $20.5 billion cut in food stamps and conservative Republicans were set on reducing spending for those growing programs. This week, House Republican leadership, working with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), called an emergency Rules Committee meeting. During that meeting Lucas said he now supported splitting the bill “as the best possible alternative we have,” and leaders hastily scheduled today’s floor vote. Every Democrat voted ‘no’ as did 12 conservatives-leaning Republicans.
For more than four decades, farm groups have been opposed to splitting the bill as they relied on a coalition of urban liberals who support expanded food stamp access. Obama has said he will veto the bill if it crosses his desk. It’s unclear when, or if, the House would move a food stamp only bill. It is also unclear how the House and Senate will move forward on a conference to advance legislation.
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