'Victory' for Boehner as House passes farm bill without food stamps
Speaker John Boehner proved to the world that he still has enough support among Republicans in the House to pass a bill.
The fact that the Senate won't touch the Farm Bill passed by the House and President Obama has threatened to veto it because the GOP scrubbed the food stamp provision in the legislation, also means that Boehner is still clueless about almost everything else.
House lawmakers approved a scaled-back version of the farm bill Thursday after stripping out the popular food-stamp program used by 48 million Americans.
The bill narrowly passed on a 216-208 vote, largely along party lines. A dozen Republicans voted against the measure while no Democrats voted in favor.
The measure focuses solely on farm programs and would delay, at least for now, efforts to overhaul the country's food-stamp program that traditionally has made up 80% of spending in the bill.
"This process hasn't been easy and we still have a long way to go to get a farm bill signed into law," said Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D. "Splitting the farm bill is not ideal and certainly wasn't the path I would have chosen, but at the end of the day, we need to get a farm bill into conference with the Senate."
Noem told reporters that House leaders said they expect to vote on the food-stamp portion of the bill "in the next week or two."
House lawmakers last month failed to pass a five-year, $500 billion farm bill that would have implemented the biggest cuts to the food-stamp program, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, in decades.
The legislation stalled after Republican lawmakers pushed for deeper cuts in SNAP spending, drawing the ire of Democrats who feared too many poor people would no longer be eligible.
The issue is cutting a realistic amount from the more than $800 billion to be spent on the SNAP program over the next 10 years. Senate Dems solomnely declare that cutting $4 billion from $800 billion is enough - even too much - while House Republicans think that $20 billion is enough.
They're both wrong. The key will be to change eligibility requirements so that a program targeting poor Americans doesn't morph into a middle class entitlement. Some House members think they can cut more than $100 billion from SNAP over the next 10 years, but that is probably going too far. What would be ideal would be to halt the astronomical growth in the program which has nearly doubled during the Obama years.
Needless to say, Democrats won't deal with those kinds of numbers. The likely result will be no Farm Bill and no food stamp reform before September 30. SNAP will continue as it is now, while farmers will lose benefits. Some smaller farmers may be hurt by the loss of subsidies with no replacement income like crop insurance, but it remains to be seen if enough pressure can be brought to bear by the farm lobby to get something done before the deadline.