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Put Food Stamps in Final Farm Bill, Democrats Urge Boehner

A united House Democratic Caucus sent Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, a letter this week urging him to include food stamp provisions in the final language of the farm bill.

Every House Democrat — with the exception of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, who does not sign onto letters to the speaker — called on Boehner to bring a conferenced farm bill to the floor that includes funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

“Given the essential nature of this program to millions of American families, the final language of the farm bill or any other legislation related to SNAP must be crafted to ensure that we do not increase hunger in America,” read the letter, written by Connecticut Democrat Rosa DeLauro.

Pelosi issued a separate statement which charged that “the Republican record reflects a blatant disregard for the needs of the most vulnerable Americans.” She said Democrats were “united in seeking a responsible solution” to the challenges facing SNAP.

“It is our hope that the Republican response to this letter is focused on how we move forward on behalf of the best interests of hardworking Americans,” her statement said.

In 2008, the last time a farm bill was signed into law, a clerk forgot the trade title in the official version of the bill — a version which President George W. Bush vetoed. The missing title caused a brouhaha. Congress had to pass the bill again, the president vetoed it again and Congress voted to override the veto, again.

The 2013 farm bill was also missing a title, and there has been, once more, another hullaballoo — only this time the neglected title was no mistake.

Republicans, in an effort to win conservative support, left off the nutrition title of the bill. It included roughly $744 billion for food stamps over the next 10 years, which would have been a cut of more than $20 billion from current law.

After a farm bill that included SNAP was voted down in a surprise defeat 195-234 in June, Republican leadership dropped the nutrition provisions and passed an agriculture-only bill.

Republican leaders have been trying to determine whether there is sufficient support to bring a nutrition bill to the floor. If they do not, and they elect to go to conference with the Senate-passed farm bill, the final bill will likely take up the Senate’s $4 billion cut to SNAP, or, as House Agriculture Chairman Frank D. Lucas, R-Okla., theorized, no cut at all.

Either way, House Democrats are signaling to Republican leadership that a $40 billion cut, which is being floated by House GOP leaders, is unpalatable to their side of the aisle.

“Republicans reportedly want to slash $40 billion from SNAP and other critical efforts,” Pelosi’s statement said. “This wrong-headed approach will take food from the mouths of children and undermine the well-being of millions of families.”

Republicans passed the farm-only farm bill, 216-208, on July 11 without a single Democratic vote.