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Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole is skeptical of farm bill strategy

Oklahoma U.S. Rep. Tom Cole says separating food stamps from farm programs to secure House passage could be “political malpractice” if the strategy fails.
by Chris Casteel Published: June 28, 2013

Republican leaders might commit “political malpractice” if they separate food stamps from farm policy to move the critical legislation through the House, Rep. Tom Cole said Friday.

“Count me as skeptical of that strategy,” said Cole, R-Moore.

House Republican leaders have been trying to devise a way of securing passage of the farm bill after its surprising defeat on June 20. Most Democrats refused to support the legislation because of cuts to the food stamp program, and 62 Republicans opposed the bill because it didn't cut spending enough.

Farm programs are set to expire in September, and Cole said in an interview that renewing them has to be a priority for Congress in July since lawmakers are in recess for most of August.

“This is something Congress has to do,” Cole said, warning that consumer prices for food would rise in the absence of a new bill because of an outdated law that would be triggered.

For more than 40 years, the food stamp program has been packaged with farm policy to attract urban and rural voters, but that traditional coalition collapsed in the House this month, largely because of $20 billion in cuts to food stamps and an amendment — added at the eleventh hour — to allow states to require food stamp recipients to seek work.

Outside conservative and taxpayer-watchdog groups have been calling on House Republicans to debate food stamps and farm subsidies separately. And House Republican leaders reportedly have that strategy under consideration.

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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