Thursday, June 28, 2018

Senate overwhelmingly passes sweeping farm bill, setting up fight with House

The Senate passed its version of the $428 billion farm bill Thursday, setting up a bitter fight against the House over food stamps, farm subsidies and conservation funding. The Senate measure passed in an 86-to-11 vote, overwhelming support that reflected a bipartisan desire to rush relief to farmers confronting low prices for their products and an array of other troubles. But the bill faces challenges when lawmakers meet later this summer to reconcile gaping differences between the House and Senate bills. The House version of the legislation, passed narrowly last week with no Democratic support, imposes strict new work requirements on able-bodied adults seeking food stamps. The Senate version, which needed Democratic votes to pass, does not include major changes to food stamps. Under the controversial House food stamp plan, most adults would have to spend 20 hours per week either working or participating in a state-run training program to receive benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, which provides an average payment of $125 per month to 42.3 million Americans. While both the White House and House Republicans have pitched the plan as an inventive way to get people back to work, House Democrats and senators in both parties have vowed to vote against a plan some say will unfairly increase red tape for low-income Americans. An attempt by Republican Sens. Ted Cruz (Tex.), John Kennedy (La.) and Mike Lee (Utah) to add tougher food stamp language to the Senate version of the bill failed Thursday as 68 senators voted to table their amendment while only 30 supported it. Lawmakers also anticipate a battle over the Senate’s proposed changes to farm subsidies, a component of the roughly $13 billion federal farm safety net. Under the Senate bill, farm “managers” who are not actively engaged in running a farm would lose out on the subsidy checks the USDA distributes when crop prices fall below predetermined levels. Lawmakers are also likely to clash over conservation funding, which both chambers reduced — but which the House cut more steeply, by $5 billion over 10 years...MORE

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