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Resurrected Farm Bill Passes Without Food Stamps Component


It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Robert Siegel. The farm bill is back. Three weeks ago, the House surprised Hill watchers when Democrats and Republicans alike voted against the bill. Well, today, they passed it - narrowly. In today's bill, though, a huge component was missing. As NPR's Tamara Keith reports, House leaders stripped out the section of the bill that deals with food stamps.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: For decades, the farm bill combined crop programs and food stamps, a marriage that brought together the interests of urban Democrats and rural Republicans. And up until now, farm bills have always been bipartisan. But Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas explained on the House floor that going the traditional route, he just...

REPRESENTATIVE FRANK LUCAS: Could not quite get the muster of both the left and the right, so we wound up a little short in the middle.

KEITH: House leaders didn't want that to happen again. So rather than try to win over Democrats, they sought to appease the right flank of the House, the 60 or so conservative Republicans who voted against it last time. To do that, they took food stamps out of the bill, entirely. This outraged Democrats. Jim McGovern is a Democrat from Massachusetts.

REPRESENTATIVE JIM MCGOVERN: People are furious. The entire nutrition title, not just SNAP, but, you know, money for food banks has been ripped out of this bill.

KEITH: Not a single Democrat voted for what Lucas started calling the farm bill farm bill.

LUCAS: In the spirit of comity, civility, in the nature of making this place work, I ask you pass the farm bill farm bill.

KEITH: In breaking up the food stamp and farm bill alliance, Republicans in Congress bucked the vast majority of farm and conservation groups. Minnesota Democrat Tim Walz read from a list of those opposed on the House floor.

REPRESENTATIVE TIM WALZ: American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, American Soybean Association...

KEITH: Walz was one of only two dozen Democrats who supported the farm bill three weeks ago, but with food stamps entirely removed from this one, he switched to a no vote.

WALZ: ...American Coalition for Ethanol, American Crystal Sugar, American Farmland Trust. I may need more time. I'm on the A's.

KEITH: In addition, conservative groups influential with House Republicans, including the Club for Growth and Heritage Action, demanded that members vote no. But it seems they had little sway this time around as all but a dozen House Republicans fell in line with their leadership. It's not clear what happens next. Democrats are calling for a conference committee with the Senate, which passed its own bipartisan farm bill. A spokesman for Speaker John Boehner says no decisions have been made at this point. Tamara Keith, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.