Food Stamps May Be Split From Farm Bill In House

WASHINGTON -- Republicans are making more noise about dropping food stamps from farm legislation that previously failed to pass the House of Representatives because of disagreement over cuts in nutrition assistance.

Roll Call reported Tuesday that a vote could happen as soon as this week, but a spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) suggested leaders haven't made up their minds.

"There has been no decision made to schedule a vote on a farm bill, in any form," Cantor spokesman Rory Cooper told HuffPost. Cantor previously hinted that the House leadership was considering splitting the farm legislation.

The farm bill failed last month after Democrats voted against it because they felt its cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program went too far, while conservative Republicans voted nay because the cuts didn't go far enough. Many on both sides also consider its farm subsidies overly generous to agribusiness.

The House GOP could likely pass deeper SNAP cuts without any Democratic support, although it's unclear how such a conservative bill could pass in the Senate. While some of the farm subsidy provisions will expire in the fall without new legislation, food stamps will continue on autopilot, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told HuffPost last week.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) had carefully shepherded farm legislation through his committee only to see it fail in last month's surprising floor vote. Lucas spokeswoman Tamara Hinton said Tuesday that he'd rather keep food stamps and farm subsidies together but wants to see something passed.

"It's not his preference to split the bill, but he wants to get a new farm bill enacted and will do what's necessary to accomplish that goal," Hinton said in an email.

Lucas told The Hill newspaper that he's "not the vote-counter" for piecemeal farm legislation. He had previously said he opposed the idea of splitting the bill.

For the past half century, nutrition assistance and farm subsidies have been linked legislatively in farm bills passed by an alliance of rural and urban lawmakers. That arrangement for enacting the bills every five years has broken lately with the rise of tea party Republicans unwilling to play along.

Nutrition assistance accounts for most of the bill's near $1 trillion cost over 10 years as the bad economy has pushed SNAP enrollment above 47 million Americans, making the program a major target for Republicans.

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