WASHINGTON (AP) — Support from Democrats and Republicans in the Senate is expected to overcome liberal as well as conservative criticism of a massive five-year farm bill that spends nearly $100 billion a year on food stamps and crop subsidies.
“The Senate has twice passed the farm bill with overwhelming bipartisan support,” said Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. “I have no doubt we’ll do it again.”
After years of setbacks, the bill cleared its biggest hurdle Wednesday when the House approved the measure, 251-166. While 63 Republicans opposed the bill, 89 Democrats supported it, bolstered by cuts to the food stamp program that were lower than first sought.
Conservatives had sought to overhaul the food stamp program, which has ballooned to $80 billion a year. But they ultimately lost out as the Senate balked and the White House threatened to veto a House plan to cut 5 percent from the program.
The final bill has $800 million, or 1 percent, in annual cuts to food stamps. The White House has said President Barack Obama will sign the bill with that level of trimming.
House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., called the compromise a “miracle.” The Senate is expected to vote on the bill in the next week.
In the Senate as in the House, some liberal critics say the food stamp cuts are too deep and some conservatives say the cuts are too modest.
“This bill will result in less food on the table for children, seniors and veterans who deserve better from this Congress while corporations continue to receive guaranteed federal handouts,” said Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y. “I cannot vote for it on the Senate floor.”
The legislation would continue to heavily subsidize major crops for the nation’s farmers while eliminating some subsidies and shifting them toward more politically defensible insurance programs.