One of the key questions moving into this week is, how do the House and Senate begin working on conference talks for their respective versions of the farm bill with the House opting not to keep the nutrition piece of the bill?
On "Fox News Sunday," Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said splitting the bill last week "was a bad tactic, as it politicized the farm bill for the first time in a long time." King said splitting the bill may give the GOP less leverage in making reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps).
The Senate has passed under $4 billion in cuts to SNAP over 10 years. The House Agriculture Committee pushed for $20.5 billion, but unless the full House passes a bill, House conference negotiators don't really have a card to play in conference talks.
Given the backlash, it remains to be seen whether House leaders now feel the pressure to put a bill on the floor for nutrition programs. Pushing for more cuts to SNAP becomes more politically problematic. There already has been a great deal of mainstream criticism. New York Times Columnist David Brooks, speaking Friday on PBS' NewsHour, had this to say about the House decision to pass a farm policy-only bill.
“All these people come to Washington and say we're going to change things, we’re going to cut the agriculture subsidies, we’re wondering why food stamps is exploding as a program, maybe we need to set that back. So they say let's change things, and that is sort of a decent impulse. But at the end of the day what do we have? They're not really cutting ag subsidies, they're just catering to their old interests, just as before, but they’re stripping out the food stamp program. So they're giving money to corporate farmers, they're taking, at least delaying money to poor people who need food. So it's a political disaster and it's also a substantive disaster because they haven't really changed the ag subsidies.”
Bob Schieffer, host of CBS's "Face the Nation" described the House farm bill as being "almost like welfare for the wealthy," but the bill includes no programs for poor people who need assistance. "What kind of message is that?" Scheiffer said to Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa. The conversation was reported by Politico. http://dld.bz/…
CBS reported Kelly considers the way the current food stamp programs operates as being un-American. Like other Republicans in the House, Kelly said the growth of the program needs to be curbed. "What bothers me is that one in six Americans right now are on this program," Kelly said. "Now, either the economy's not growing at the rate it should, or this program is so badly flawed that we're letting too many people in. The sustainability of this is what concerns me; you can't keep promising things to people that in the future you know you can't sustain. I think it's unfair, and I think it's un-American to do that." http://dld.bz/…
Senate Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said on the show that the House version of the bill isn't going anywhere in the Senate. "We have had a partnership of those living in the cities who are interested in nutritional programs, whether it's food stamps or school lunch, and those who represented rural areas, which I did in Congress, that came together in a farm bill. It was a winning formula. Now the House Republicans have given up on that. That's a mistake," Durbin said.
"Let's not only grow the food; let's make sure it's distributed fairly across America, particularly so our own people don't go hungry," he concluded. "Separating out these two issues is not in the best interest of our country."
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., is scheduled to talk with reporters tomorrow about the farm bill and how she sees negotiators dealing with a split bill that doesn't include nutrition programs.
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