Will GOP Plan to Cut Food Stamps Save the Farm Bill … or Kill It?
Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio suffered a stunning defeat on the farm bill last month, after 62 Republicans voted against the bill and all but 24 Democrats, opposed to some $20.5 billion in cuts to food aid over 10 years, also defected. The bill failed, 195 to 234, on June 20.
By splitting off the food stamp title of the legislation, which accounts for 80 percent of the nearly $1 trillion bill, GOP leaders hope to attract back enough conservative Republican votes to pass the measure. That would allow the House to negotiate with the Senate over a comprehensive Senate measure that drew the support of roughly two-thirds of that chamber’s members.
In some ways, the strategy appears sensible. Conservative groups and lawmakers, including Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin, have long wanted to divorce the two programs, arguing that putting them together helps shield social welfare spending from appropriate fiscal scrutiny. Given that Republicans hold the majority in the House, doing things conservatives want should bring more GOP votes.
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But in today’s madcap Republican conference, rifts over farm policy run deep. Even without the food aid, getting enough Republican votes to pass the bill still requires striking a detente between hardline free marketeers and members from agricultural districts that benefit from subsidy policies detested by the party’s fiscal right wing.
And this time, there won’t likely be a single Democrat to help fill in the gaps.
“My guess is in a few days they’ll figure out they don’t have the votes and then we’ll get back to reality - hopefully,” says Rep. Colin Peterson (D) of Minnesota, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, who opposes splitting the bill and believes all of his colleagues in the minority will oppose it, as well. “Either that or they will march off and kill the farm bill.”
The difficulty with the path House Republican leaders are feeling out is best explained through several conservative groups influential in the House GOP.
If the GOP splits the Bill into Farm Subsidies and Food Stamps and then fail to pass either it shows that they cannot govern even within thier own caucus.