The Farm Bill has historically been a regular conduit of billions of federal dollars for farm subsidies and food stamps. Though the addition of food stamps appears unrelated to the title and purpose of the bill, the provision is a way to attract urban support for a bill that benefits rural states.
However, the bill failed to pass in the House this time. In an attempt to appeal to Republicans and get the farm subsidies passed, House leaders are attempting to pass the bill without food stamps.
Without food stamps' appeal to big city lawmakers, House Democrats are up in arms, relinquishing all support and accusing Republicans of “attacking poor people.” In response, Republicans argue they are not eliminating the program but merely addressing food stamps in a separate bill.
This comes just days after the Department of Agriculture reports that one in six Americans rely on food stamps, a program that has only grown since the recession. Food stamps, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, has received increasing criticism for its dubious eligibility requirements and vulnerability to scams and fraud. The program costs $80 billion a year.
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It is unclear whether either bill, food stamps or the Farm Bill, can pass on its own. Even with the issuing dividing Right from Left, it also divides lawmakers rural from urban. Conservative groups, like the Heritage foundation, decry the farm bill’s expensive subsidies and argue they are overly distortional.
All of this might be a moot fight, however, as the White House released a statement late last night saying that President Barack Obama would veto the Farm Bill if passed without food stamps.
That is, assuming the Senate would even pass the bill. It is a close call. The Senate has a Democratic majority but also greater representation of rural areas.
Republicans are scrambling to get the necessary 218 votes and many opinions are evolving. House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla.
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"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."