WASHINGTON (AP) - Republicans pushed a scaled-down farm bill through the House on Thursday, putting off a fight over food stamp spending and giving GOP leaders a victory after a decisive defeat on the larger bill last month.
Republicans faced significant opposition to the plan from Democrats, farm groups and conservative groups that threatened to use the vote against GOP members in future campaigns. But Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., navigated his colleagues to a narrow 216-208 vote by convincing Republican members that this was the best chance to get the bill passed and erase the embarrassment of the June loss.
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House Republican leaders are considering a new strategy to try to win support for the massive, five-year farm bill: splitting it into two separate measures, one for farm programs and one for food stamps.
It's an attempt to gather support from conservatives who voted against it. Critics say it could lead to bigger cuts in both farm subsidies and the domestic food aid.
The House rejected the farm bill in June after some in the GOP complained that the legislation did not cut enough from food stamps. Democrats said the 3 percent cut in food stamps was too much.
The Democratic-led Senate, which overwhelmingly passed a farm bill with smaller cuts to food stamps, would be reluctant to go along with a split bill or further cuts to the programs.
While South Dakota Republican Senator John Thune doesn't like the idea of splitting the two he says they may need to do it just to get something done. "At this point we just need to get something through the house and so if that's what it takes I'm certainly open to that idea," Senator Thune said.
While it is unclear whether U.S. Representative Kristi Noem supports severing the two, says she is committed to getting the farm bill passed.