WASHINGTON — Republicans narrowly pushed through a farm bill stripped of nutrition programs on Thursday in a raucous session marked by Democratic charges that GOP House members had abandoned the nation's poor.
The mostly partly-line vote was 216-208, with all 196 Democrats present voting against. All five Oklahoma House members voted for the bill. Democrats repeatedly forced procedural delays before the final vote, and many vented angrily.
“I would say it was one of the worst things you've done, but there is such stiff competition for that honor that I can't really fully say that,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, of California, told Republicans.
“But when you take food out of the mouths of babies and you prevent a bill from going forward that addresses our food banks and our nutrition needs and the rest for our country, what are you thinking? Or are you thinking?”
The strategy by House Republican leaders to get some part of the farm bill approved paid off temporarily, but the future of the legislation seemed as uncertain Thursday as it did last month, when the House soundly rejected a traditional package of farm and nutrition programs.
Rep. Frank Lucas, the Oklahoma Republican who is chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, said he would try to get legislation through his panel and the full House to renew food stamps and other nutrition programs that were stripped from the farm bill.
But he offered no guarantees that could be done.
The U.S. Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, has passed its own farm bill including nutrition programs and is not likely to pare down its legislation to accommodate House Republicans.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, called the House bill “an insult to rural America.”
The White House threatened late Wednesday to veto the House version partly because nutrition programs were removed.
Farm bills for the past five decades have included agriculture and nutrition programs, giving farm-state legislators a rural-urban coalition to assure passage.
That coalition collapsed last month, when most Democrats voted against the bill because of cuts and new requirements in the food stamp program. More than 60 Republicans opposed it because they didn't think the bill cut food stamps and farm programs enough.