“The ayes are 216, the nays are 208, the bill is passed.”
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a scaled-down version of the Farm Bill Thursday WITHOUT including any provisions for food assistance.
The 216-208 vote came mostly along party lines. No Democrats voted in favor of the legislation and 12 Republicans broke ranks to vote against it. Many in the minority blamed partisanship for their opposition of the latest version of the bill.
Rep. John Lewis, D – GA: “It takes the safety net from America’s poor families.”
Rep. G.K. Butterfield, R – NC: “The national Tea Party has a national agenda and it is playing out in this chamber today. You are attempting to defund food stamps, yes you are, and place poor people, which includes children, the elderly and veterans that none of you would want to be in.”
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D – MO: “Mr. Speaker, I object to this bill, because this bill is not just going to create tension among us, but the people of this country who depend on us.”
Rep. Collin Peterson, D – MN: “Some of the people on that side have been trying to make this bill a partisan bill for four months. And they finally succeeded. I don’t know. I told my caucus that I thought something that would never happen. You have now managed to make me a partisan. And that’s a darn hard thing to do. But you accomplished. This is a bad bill. It should be defeated. We should go back and work on a bi-partisan bill like we worked in the first place.”
Despite strident opposition, supporters said this was the only way a Farm Bill would move forward would be without provisions for programs aimed at helping poorer Americans – primarily the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reports that participation and spending on SNAP both soared to record levels in 2011. According to the CBO, nearly 45 million Americans, one out of every seven U.S. residents, received SNAP benefits – formerly known as Food Stamps -- in an average month. The result was an unprecedented annual cost of $78 billion.
Rep. Frank Lucas, R – OK: “Sometimes you have to have reform. Sometimes you have to do things differently. But at least the Ag Committee chose reforms across our jurisdiction.”
Rep. Mike Conaway, R – TX: “Those of us who came to town to cut spending, reduce the deficit, reduce the size of government, and make reforms have a real opportunity to walk the walk. This Farm Bill does all of those things.”
Rep. Steve King, R – IA: “We’re down to this is our choice for this bill which can provide 5 years of predictability for agriculture and an uncertain bill might come before us on nutrition, which I think ends up without what I want, which is reform of SNAP.”
Rep. Glenn Thompson, R – PA: “The bill before us today repeals the outdated farm programs we don’t need and can’t afford. Direct payments, counter-cyclical payments, the average crop revenue election, or the ACRE program, the supplemental revenue assistance program, shore program, all repealed in this bill.”
Just hours before Thursday's expected floor vote, the full text of the bill was released. It was unclear at that time whether GOP leaders had the votes needed to pass the new measure containing only farm programs, and House Democrats reacted angrily to the last-minute move by the GOP.
Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D – NC: ”Now you bring us another bill with no nutrition title at all, we cannot stand by and be silent when republicans take these actions that offend what we are as Americans.”
Rep. Time Walz, D – MN: I am not proud of what we are seeing today, the disrespect of the hollowed ground by hatching this abomination in the middle of the night and forcing it here with extremist elements is the reason the American people think higher of North Korea than they do of this body.”
Rep. Pete Sessions, R – TX: “My party is here trying to make sure we get a second shot at passing the Farm Bill and that’s what we intend to do.”
Rep. Jeff McGovern, D – MA: “Mr. Speaker, let me just say to the gentleman that the reason we don’t support the Farm Bill is because the Farm Bill put on the floor by Republicans will throw 2 million of our citizens off the Food Stamp program.”
Thursday’s vote gave House Majority Leader Eric Cantor a victory in the wake of a stunning defeat in June, when 62 Republicans voted against the original $100 billion-per-year version of the Farm Bill – largely because it only cut SNAP spending by 3 percent. Many GOP lawmakers said that wasn’t enough since the program's cost has doubled in the last five years.
The SNAP program doesn't need new legislation to continue, but Congress would have to pass a bill to enact any changes.
The newly-passed measure eliminates direct payments to more wealthy farmers and removes subsidies for people who no longer farm. Previous language developed at the committee level remains for commodity, crop insurance and conservation programs. The measure approved by the House Thursday also repeals the so-called “permanent” farm authorizations of 1938 and 1949 making the 2013 Farm Bill “permanent” instead.
The idea of a split bill was to pass the farm programs -- which the CBO estimates would cost about $20 billion a year and contain about $1.3 billion a year in cuts to farm subsidies — and take up the nutritional programs later. And House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, said Republicans would "act with dispatch" to get that legislation to the floor.
Rep. Collin Peterson, D – MN: “Last week, a broad coalition of 532 agriculture, conservation, rural development, finance, forestry, energy, crop insurance groups expressed their opposition to splitting the Farm Bill.”
Rep. Tim Walz, D – MN: “American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers…“
Farm groups and a litany of others opposed the House’s latest version of the Farm Bill and some organizations threatened to use the vote against GOP members in future campaigns.