Historically Uncontroversial, But in 2018, Farm Bill Fails

The 2018 farm bill was defeated with a vote of 213-198, with all House Democrats and 30 House Freedom Caucus Republicans voting against it. The first farm bill was passed in 1933, and since then, farm bills have generally had bipartisan support. But with the polarities that currently exist both within and between parties, it should not be a shock that this farm bill didn’t pass. If even a bill that has traditionally enjoyed the backing of both parties can fail, we could look at the 2018 farm bill as reminder of just how politically divided we are today.

Most Republicans urged a vote on the passage of immigration policy before voting on the 2018 farm bill, however. The farm bill became a bargaining chip as Republicans worked to get support for a stringent immigration bill, The Goodlatte-McCaul bill. Goodlatte-McCaul cracks down on sanctuary cities, authorizes the building of a border wall, provides temporary three-year guest work permits without a path to citizenship and allows for negotiation with Trump on the fate of the DACA recipients.

The current farm bill expires on September 30, so there is still time to draft and vote on a satisfactory replacement. But putting off a vote for the farm bill in order to address stricter immigration policy is likely to result in the stalling of satisfactory decisions on both issues.

Traditionally, farm bills have been designed to support both very urban and very rural districts. They have done so by providing subsidies for farmers, and subsidized food programs in the form of either SNAP (food stamps) or subsidized school breakfasts and lunches for those living in poverty. For the past 50 years, farm bills have changed very little.

The 2018 farm bill, however, contains changes food stamp eligibility that Democrats see as too harsh, and that Freedom Caucus members see as not going far enough. Food stamp changes would require adults to work 20 hours a week or participate in a state-run training program in order to be eligible for benefits. Democrats fear that at least a million people could lose benefits under these guidelines, since most states don’t have the resources to establish and maintain such training programs.

Meanwhile, farmers and those who need food assistance wait uneasily for the outcome. With the wide ideological gaps that exist among the GOP members themselves, however, it doesn’t seem likely that any farm bill could ever make it through a House vote.

30 House Republicans join Democrats to defeat farm bill | Fox News [2018-05-19]

Farm Bill Fails In The House | CNBC [2018-05-18]

 

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