GOP: Pork barrels? Yes. Pork for the hungry? No.
Well, the U.S. House of Representatives, or at least the the 216 representatives (Republicans all) who passed the House version of the farm bill Thursday, have made their position on government handouts clear: They favor giving money to farmers and agribusiness. Feeding families sunk deep in poverty, however, is unacceptable.
Basically, the scenario that Tom Laskawy outlined here has come to pass. The House passed a farm bill, but only after stripping out nearly all of the food stamp program (which accounts for roughly $80 billion of the original farm bill’s $100 billion annual spending).
The idea is that the House will search under the cushions later for some spare change to toss to the paupers. But the implication is clear: Aiding growers is essential; aiding the hungry must wait.
Conservative groups condemned the farm bill and a scuffle nearly broke out among the representatives as the debate grew heated: “Shame on the House of Representatives,” lectured Florida Democrat Corrine Brown. “Shame on the Republicans.” When Republicans demanded Brown step down from the podium, several Democrats surrounded the lectern to defend her.
Brad Plumer over at Wonkblog has a good rundown on what happens next. It’s likely that this is simply Republicans’ first, lowball, offer in bargaining for less food stamp spending.
President Obama threatened to veto a farm bill with cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (the official name for food stamps), so — even if the Senate could somehow be persuaded to embrace the House’s cuts — it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which he signs a bill that doesn’t fund food assistance at all.