The House of Representatives narrowly passed a massive farm bill on Thursday after House Republicans took away the food stamp provisions.
The move to split food stamp funding from federal agricultural policy angered the White House and Democrats, who spent most of Thursday trying to delay the vote.
Lawmakers passed the farm bill by a vote of 216 to 208 — a narrow victory for Republicans, notes The Washington Post.. The bill changes some federal agricultural policy and conservation programs. It also ends direct subsidy payments to farmers.
However, it says nothing about funding for food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which in the past has accounted for about 80 percent of the funding in a farm bill.
Along with all House Democrats, 12 Republicans opposed the bill. While speakers don’t traditionally vote, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) voted for the measure.
While the House moved to pass a farm bill that didn’t include food stamps, the Senate continued with its own bipartisan bill has food stamps as the centerpiece. Despite the House vote, The New York Times reports that Representative Frank D. Lucas (R-OK), the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, promised he would draft a separate food stamp bill “as soon as I can achieve a consensus.
However, Republicans still appear determined to make deep cuts to the food stamp program, something that members of both parties in the House and Senate have announced they will not support. It is likely that House and Senate negotiators can produce a compromise measure. But the resulting bill would have to pass the house without the support of many Republicans.
Congress must come to a consensus by September 30, when the current farm bill and food stamp programs will expire. If they do not, then American farmers will fall back to a 1949 law that governed the industry. The change could lead to steep price increases on products like milk.
While the House farm bill may have passed, it is unlikely it will be able to pass in the Senate, leaving the issue at a standstill for now.
[Image by Gilles San Martin via Wikimedia Commons]