from FOX News –
The House on Thursday narrowly passed a massive farm bill, after Republicans took the risky step of carving out the food stamp program — a move Democrats effectively boycotted.
The bill passed on a 216-208 vote. Zero Democrats voted for it.
ORIGINAL STORY …
House Republicans triggered a political melee Thursday after stripping food stamps from the farm bill, as Democrats lined up to accuse their colleagues of attacking “poor people.”
The debate on the floor was intense, as House leaders trudged toward a possible vote later in the day.
The farm bill historically has been a vehicle for both billions in farm subsidies and billions in food stamps. Twinning the two massive programs has in the past helped win support from both rural-state lawmakers and those representing big cities. But after the bill failed in the House last month amid opposition from rank-and-file Republicans, House leaders removed the food stamp portion in a bid to attract conservative support.
Democrats, though, reacted furiously, making clear that Republicans will largely have to go it alone if they want to proceed.
“It’s all about denying the working poor the right to food,” Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., claimed, accusing Republicans of attacking “poor people.”
One by one, members of the Congressional Black Caucus lined up to assail the proposal. “There are poor children in poor areas that I represent,” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., said.
Republicans, while concerned about the ballooning cost and enrollment in the $80 billion-a-year food stamp program, are not by any means eliminating food stamps by taking it out of the farm bill. They would instead deal with it as a separate bill.
But it’s unclear whether that bill would advance on its own. And without Democratic support, it’s unclear whether the farm-only bill can advance either — some influential conservative groups already are leaning on the House to reject it, claiming the subsidies are still too expensive.
“Although the bill does not contain the $750 billion in food stamp spending like (the previous bill) it does nothing to make ‘meaningful reforms’ to America’s farm policy,” the conservative Heritage Foundation, which helped kill the bill the last time, said in a statement.
The White House, meanwhile, is opposed to separating food stamps from the rest of the farm bill. Late Wednesday, the White House released a statement saying that President Obama would veto the House legislation if it is sent to him. The statement said that the food stamp program “is a cornerstone of our nation’s food assistance safety net, and should not be left behind as the rest of the Farm Bill advances.”
Republicans have been counting votes for the bill containing only the farm programs over the last two days.
The Democratic-led Senate, which overwhelmingly passed a farm bill with smaller cuts to food stamps, would be reluctant to go along with a split bill or further cuts to the programs.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said splitting the bill would be a “major mistake” — though she has also indicated a willingness to try building off anything the House passes.
Republicans are still divided on how big cuts should be to food stamps, which have doubled in cost in the last five years. Democrats have opposed any cuts. The dropped section would have made a 3 percent cut, which many Republicans say isn’t enough.
Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, said he sees “no clear path to getting a bill passed by the House and Senate and signed by the president.”
House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said as recently as last week that he opposed splitting the bill. But he has now reluctantly agreed to the strategy, saying he would support it if his Republican leaders could deliver the votes. Late Wednesday, he gave a reserved endorsement of the plan to the GOP-controlled Rules Committee, which determines the procedures for floor debate.
“Maybe the old dynamic of how we have done things since 1965 isn’t valid anymore,” he said. “Maybe it is time to try something different.”
Lucas said as he left the meeting that he didn’t know if the leadership had the 218 votes necessary for passage.
The bill would also repeal laws from the 1930s and 1940s, essentially eliminating all old farm policy, which some conservatives like.
Farm-state lawmakers have kept those laws on the books so there would be incentive to pass new farm bills and avoid expiration, but the threat of outdated policies kicking in has been a headache for farmers who worry they can’t depend on Congress to create new laws or extend more recent versions of the law.
Repealing those decades-old laws could mean that Congress would have little incentive to create new farm bills, however, and could make many farm programs permanent.
Fox News’ Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.