U.S. House Republican leaders have begun talking about divorcing food stamps from agriculture subsidies and bringing a much-slimmer farm bill up for a vote.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, is considering the possibility of breaking with decades of precedent to put forward a bill that can pass with only Republican votes, according to a senior Republican aide who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Last week, the House rejected a $939 billion measure, H.R. 1947, that would have authorized agriculture and food-aid programs for the next five years. Nutrition programs have been handled in the farm bill since 1977, marrying the interests of urban and rural lawmakers.
The largest House Republican caucus, the Republican Study Committee, has been pushing leaders to treat the issues separately, a position advocated by a coalition of small-government groups.
“We should separate food stamps from what we call the commodity title,” Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, an RSC member, told MSNBC on June 24.
“If you want to change the status quo,” said Ryan, the Republican vice presidential nominee in 2012, “separate the two and focus on them separately.”
Ryan voted against the farm bill. He represents an agriculture-heavy district in southern Wisconsin, including CNH Global NV (CNH:US)’s Racine-based farm equipment manufacturer Case Corp.
The bill ended up in defeat in part because Democrats objected to a food-stamp work-requirement amendment that Cantor backed.
The Senate has passed S. 954, a bill that would change farm-subsidy programs and reauthorize the food stamp program, though with eligibility restrictions.
Senate Agriculture Chairman Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan, has said a farm bill without food stamps is a non-starter.
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