House leaders consider removing food stamp funding from Farm Bill

Among the problems that fiscal conservatives had with the $940 billion Farm Bill — and what was among the issues that led to the measure’s demise last week in the House — was the inclusion of food stamp funding.

Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) offered an amendment in the House Rules Committee to separate food stamps funding from the rest of the Farm Bill. During the hearing on the bill, Stutzman said, “[F]or too long this Congress has combined farm policy and nutrition policy and what we have now is a bill that spends $740 billion on food stamps and $200 billion on farm policy.” However, his amendment was rejected by the committee and never brought to the House floor for a vote.

It appears, according to Politico, that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) is finally considering separating food stamps from the measure, which is what they should’ve done before, in hopes that that Farm Bill will win passage:

Moving further to the right, the House Republican leadership is actively pursuing a strategy now of splitting their failed farm bill into two parts so that the nutrition title and food stamps funding can be considered on its own.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who played a major part in the collapse of the farm bill last week, is driving this approach, which dovetails with the agenda of outside conservative groups. But it’s not clear whether Cantor believes himself this is the best course or is simply willing to go through the exercise in order to give the right wing another opportunity to express itself.

In the past, food stamp funding had been included in the Farm Bill as a way to ensure passage through Congress. But the cost of this year’s measure, driven by funding for food stamps, which consumed nearly 79% ($740 billion) of the bill’s total cost.

Over at the Washington Examiner, Ashe Schow reports that Cantor seems serious, though fiscal conservatives in the House are skeptical that this will be the direction that House leaders take:

a senior Republican aide took a more neutral approach, saying, “Cantor believes the best path now is to move forward with a bill that has 218 Republican votes, since Democrats proved they cannot be trusted to work in good faith, and that path may be splitting up the bill.”

[Kansas Rep. Tim] Huelskamp is skeptical. “I really don’t see the leadership going that direction,” he said Wednesday. “They haven’t telegraphed anything that they plan on doing.”

To be clear, separating the food stamps from the Farm Bill doesn’t mean that it’ll win passage, especially if Cantor doesn’t believe that he can rely on House Democrats (which is nothing more than an excuse for his own failure). Many of the Republicans that voted against the Farm Bill had very real issues with the lack of reform on the policy side, from corporate welfare to protectionist subsidies to paying farmers not to yield crops.

Republican leaders may once again be setting themselves up for failure unless they are willing to tackle serious reform measures that will attract the 218 Republicans they need to pass the bill.

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