A five-year, $500 billion bill that supports various agriculture and nutrition programs is stuck in the House as lawmakers debate how much to cut from food stamps, farm subsidies, and other aspects of the typically bipartisan bill. A similar bill passed by the Democrat-led Senate would cut $4.5 billion from food stamps, trimming $23.6 billion overall over the next 10 years. Meanwhile, the House Agriculture Committee has pushed forward legislation that would cut $16.5 billion from nutrition programs, which House Democrats say is far too steep and conservative Tea Party Republicans insist is not enough. The logjam had kept the measure from being brought to a vote on the House floor.
With drought plaguing much of America's farmlands, agricultural groups are growing increasingly frustrated with the congressional stalemate over the bill, the current version of which expires September 30. A short-term extension was passed before the August recess, and House members are considering another one-year extension if they are unable to break the impasse. Senate leaders are pressuring the House to pass a long-term bill before the September session is up, so October could be spent reconciling the two bills, and a final version could be passed in November, after Election Day. Should Congress pass the farm bill? Here is the Debate Club's take:
Melissa Boteach Director of the Poverty and Prosperity Program for Center for American Progress
Jim Weill President of the Food Research and Action Center
Roger Johnson President of the National Farmers Union
Leonard Boswell Democratic U.S. Representative from Iowa
Nan Swift Federal Government Affairs Manager at the National Taxpayers Union