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January 29, 2014

House Passes Bloated Farm Bill After Caving On Conservative Reforms

Instead of cutting 5% from the ever doubling "food stamp" program it "cuts" 1% but efforts to separate farm subsidies and "food stamp" spending failed when the GOP caved in conference with the Senate.

Members approved the House-Senate agreement on farm policy in a 251-166 vote. A majority of Republicans backed the bill, with 63 GOP "no" votes. But a majority of Democrats opposed it, with 103 voting against.


A majority of the spending in the bill is for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), informally called the food stamp program, and much of the Democratic opposition came from members who opposed the $8 billion cut to the program. The original House proposal would have cut $39 billion from food stamps, while the Senate-passed bill called for a $4 billion cut.

One of the reasons I put "cut" in quotes in the lead to the post is the mechanism that leads to the reductions might not actually happen.

The bill finds $8.6 billion in savings by requiring households to receive at least $20 per year in home heating assistance before they automatically qualify for food stamps, instead of the $1 threshold now in place in some states.

If that report is correct, just because someone isn't "automatically" qualified for food stamps doesn't mean there aren't other ways they qualify. Anyone want to bet these "cuts" never actually happen?

While the bill passed with a majority of the majority (most Republicans are always good with more spending), conservatives aren't happy.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., raised the concern Tuesday in a closed-door conference meeting of the conservative Republican Study Committee. The House passed agriculture legislation that split what he called the “unholy alliance” of agriculture and nutrition policy, namely the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps.

When the bill came back from conference with the Senate, however, the two sections were fused again. Rather than cutting $40 billion from SNAP, it slashes $8 billion, leading some House members to think something similar could happen with an immigration overhaul, even if they pass the piecemeal bills leadership is considering.

“It was something Republicans, not just conservatives, could have hung their hat on. We could have accepted a lot of crap if we preserved that separation,” Mulvaney said after the meeting. “If the new normal is going to be that we pass really good House bills but get killed in conference, I think it does raise legitimate questions about whether or not we should go to conference” on immigration.

The reason conservatives want to separate food stamps and farm subsidies is to make it easier to cut both. Bundling them together was a bi-paristan idea.

Some say if SNAP is separated from the farm bill, the House would still pass the remaining titles, albeit with amendments and spending sacrifices. But former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman disagrees. The coalitions between farm and food groups developed beginning with the late Sen. George McGovern and former Sen. Bob Dole in the 1970s "have been in large part responsible for the health of both farm and nutrition legislation," Glickman told Agri-Pulse.

Dole wrote in a Washington Post editorial on McGovern's passing that "we would both come to understand that our most important commonality the one that would unite us during and after our service on Capitol Hill was our shared desire to eliminate hunger in this country and around the world."

The best conservatives can hope for is there's some good (opposition to immigration reform efforts) to come out this business as usual mess the GOP has once again agreed to.

Anyone want to bet on that?

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posted by DrewM. at 12:33 PM

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