WASHINGTON — A farm bill to reshape crop subsidies and extend food stamp aid easily cleared a Senate procedural hurdle Monday and headed toward a Tuesday vote on passage.
The long-overdue bill drew strong bipartisan support, though Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, and other fiscal conservatives ridiculed claims that the bill reformed farm and nutrition programs.
“This is hardly reform,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. “It will prove to be more wasteful and costly than any farm bill we've ever seen.”
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, countered that the legislation contained “some of the most significant reforms in decades” and suggested that opponents didn't understand how government support for farmers was being curtailed.
The five-year bill, which was approved by the House last week, moved past the Senate hurdle on Monday by a vote of 72 to 22. Coburn and Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, voted against advancing the bill.
Democrats and Republicans praised the bill — which would cost an estimated $960 billion over 10 years — for giving farmers certainty about federal programs more than a year after the current farm bill was supposed to expire.
Several supporters noted that the legislation would finally eliminate the direct cash payments made to landowners even when crop prices were high — and even if they no longer planted crops.