A little over two weeks after its surprising defeat in the House, Republican representatives are trying to figure out a way to get the $940 million farm bill package passed.
Their next potential strategy? Splitting the bill in two.
When the bill was defeated in June, a coalition of conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats teamed up to shoot it down. The Democrats weren’t happy at food stamps limits placed within the bill, while the Republicans wanted further cuts to both food stamps and farmer subsidies.
The thinking here, supported by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. and Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Ok., is that by breaking up the bill, they increase the chances of getting the two main parts of the first bill passed — reforms to food stamps and nutrition, as well as general agriculture rules and subsidies. They also make it so that conservative Republicans don’t have to go on record voting for food stamp funding in order to pass the rest of the farm package.
Still, there are plenty of drawbacks to splitting up the bill. Some Republicans argue that by pulling food stamps away from the rest of the farm bill, they lose their leverage in demanding food stamp reforms from the Senate.
Rep. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, said, “We could end up with a farm safety-net rural development bill only. Why would the Senate force any reforms to the nutrition program?”
Even Lucas didn’t seem fully sold on the split. When Politico asked him about the two-bill strategy, he said:
“It’s contrary to the conventional wisdom since at least 1965 so that’s outside the box… We’re at a point in time where we have to think outside the box. I have to pass a farm bill. Whatever combination of events gets us ultimately to that farm bill is worth trying.”
The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.
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