The House Wednesday passed a farm bill by a narrow vote of 216 to 208, omitting funding for the food stamp program from the bill for the first time since 1973. No Democrats voted for the bill; the separation of the food stamp and agriculture funding portions was an attempt to garner more support from Republicans, who rejected the original bill last month.
Nearly 80 percent of that $939.5 billion bill went towards food stamps, but Republican Rep. Marlin Strutzman of Indiana, one of the authors, wanted to divide it so each portion could be debated separately. He said farm subsidies and food assistance didn't belong in the same piece of legislation, and taxpayers "deserve an honest conversation" about how their dollars are spent.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio., said the stripping of food stamps from the farm bill was a step in the right direction:
Our farm and food stamp programs need reform. The status quo is unacceptable, which is why I voted against most of the farm bills of the past two decades, and supported this one. I'm pleased the House took a positive first step forward in providing some much-needed reforms to our farm programs today. Reforming our food stamp programs is also essential
Yet conservatives do not all agree that passage of the farm bill, the House's first in two years, is a good thing. Some opposed the splitting because they said it was just a tactic to advance the House bill to conference with the Senate's version, which did not separate food assistance from the agriculture subsidies.
Taxpayers for Common Sense said the House farm bill does not achieve any budget reform and that it saves less money than the agricultural funding sections of the Senate Bill:
While we urged lawmakers to debate the farm bill on its own merits and break the Ag-Urban unholy alliance that logrolled over attempts to reform both programs, there is no indication that a nutrition-only bill will ever receive a vote on the House floor. Therefore, this cynical procedural move is simply a green light to get to conference with the Senate.
House Democrats were disappointed by the bill, claiming it was clearly an attempt to drastically reduce food stamp aid. "This is wrong," said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on the House floor. "Taking food out of the mouth of babies – I don't think so."
The Democratically controlled Senate is unlikely to conference the two bills until the House includes food assistance program funding in its version, and President Barack Obama said he would veto any bill that did not combine both policies.
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