After weeks of pitched battle on Capitol Hill and in the media, the U.S. House of Representatives finally passed a farm bill on Thursday. The latest incarnation of the bill, which narrowly passed with zero Democratic votes, includes no provisions related to funding for SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps).
Since 1977, every incarnation of the farm bill—which subsidizes and regulate various programs related to agriculture and food production—has included food stamp funding. House leadership decided to carve SNAP out of the 2013 farm bill and place it in a separate piece of legislation after Democrats blocked an earlier version of the law which would have cut about $20.5 billion out of SNAP over the next decade.
Now that Republicans have successfully passed a version of the farm bill without SNAP funding, they will likely introduce a separate food stamp bill which is expected to include even deeper cuts than the $20.5 billion originally proposed. Several Republicans defected on the original farm bill because they did not consider the cuts to food stamps deep enough; House leadership will likely design the separate food stamps bill with placating those members in mind.
The farm bill vote was preceded by a vicious floor debate. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said the revised farm bill would be "the death knell of the food stamp program."
"A vote for this bill is a vote to end nutrition programs in America," she said. She also accused the Republican House leadership of violating its own rules by bringing the new bill to a vote fewer than three days after it had been introduced.
"I would have said it's one of the worst things you've done, but there's such stiff competition for that honor," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Republicans framed the debate in bloodless terms, saying that separating food stamps from agricultural policy was the logical thing to do. Rules committee chair Pete Session, R-Texas, said the new version of the bill "excludes some extraneous provisions," a statement that drew outrage from his Democratic colleagues.
"These people are not extraneous," said DeLauro of food stamp recipients.
The White House has threatened a veto of the House bill. It will now proceed to conference committee, where it will be merged with a Senate farm bill that includes some $4 billion in food stamp cuts.