The House on Wednesday passed an almost $100 billion-a-year farm bill compromise containing a small cut in food stamps and preserving most crop subsidies.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said shortly after the vote that President Barack Obama would sign the bill if it reaches his desk. The Washington Times reported Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to take up the bill once the Senate finishes debating a flood insurance bill, likely late today or tomorrow.
The measure, which the House approved 251-166, had solid backing from the Republican leadership team, even though it makes smaller cuts to food stamps than some would have liked. House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., who has been working on the bill since 2011, called the compromise a “miracle” after years of setbacks.
The savings in the cost of the food stamp program would be generated by closing a loophole some states use to boost benefits. By qualifying for federal heating assistance, sometimes as little as $1 per person, recipients can receive more in food stamps than they originally qualified for. The bill passed today would require states to give recipients at least $20 in heating assistance before a higher food stamp benefit kicks in.
A solid 103 Democrats voted against the bill, though, with many defending the energy loophole because the average person gets just $1.40 per meal in food stamps. And the benefits give people money to spend to help local economies.
Sixty-three Republican lawmakers also expressed dissatisfaction with the bill, arguing the food stamp cuts are too low and the overall bill, containing goodies for lawmakers across the country, spends too much money.
“This is exactly the kind of logrolling that we fought to prevent this summer,” Indiana Rep. Marlin Stutzman said. “It spends money we simply don’t have.” Depending on the congressional source, the bill will save roughly 2 percent, or $2 billion, over the last farm bill passed.
Foreign Affairs committee chairman Rep. Ed Royce, R-Cali., and ranking member Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., also voted against the bill. The pair had supported reforms to foreign food aid.