By a vote of 216-208, House Republicans passed a farm bill on Thursday that splits the two traditional pieces of the legislation into separate bills, effectively leaving further discussion of food stamp funding for another day. Their move, driven by an effort to get votes from the conservative wing of the party, removes the part of the bill that usually brings legislators from more liberal or urban districts on board. Aside from the House Republican leaders who were looking to avoid further embarrassment on the subject, it's not really clear if anyone else is particularly pleased with the move, which was met with opposition from Democrats, farm groups, and even some conservatives.
Last month, the House failed to pass a version of the farm bill after a bipartisan vote in the Senate pushed forward a measure including food stamp cuts. That failure prompted House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to scold several Republican committee chairmen for not voting for the bill — calling their votes "unacceptable" — in a meeting on Monday. Apparently, the GOP in the House couldn't agree on how much more to cut from the food stamp program: The Senate version included $4 billion in cuts over 10 years, while one House version of the bill upped those cuts to $20 billion. In order to get something passed this week, the GOP decided to drop the most politically problematic issue for their party from the bill, leaving it until later. And it looks like it worked, at least in the short term: just 11 Republicans voted against the bill, while no Democrats supported it.
In the long term, however, the delay on food stamps could pose problems for Republican representatives: as The Atlantic Wire's Philip Bump explained, residents of GOP-heavy states are overall more likely to be enrolled in the food assistance program. And there's another sticking point for conservatives in the part of the farm bill that did pass: the bill would make make farm commodity programs permanent, something conservatives oppose because it limits their ability to reform them later.
In any case, the House and Senate will now have to find a compromise on the new farm bill, one that, the House GOP is hoping, won't include adding back the food stamp program funding, i.e. the provision that made the original bill a bipartisan compromise in the first place.
- Politics & Government