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Speakers at the WAOB Forum held in Arlington, VA, shown here Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of theSnat Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow
Whither food stamps? By passing a farm-only farm bill, omitting the nutrition programs that had long been a major part of the farm bill, House Republicans have introduced serious confusion into a process with a firm deadline: If a farm bill is not passed by Congress and signed by the president by Sept. 30, the current law expires, with potentially serious ramifications for things like milk prices. But House Republicans seem to be in no hurry—they haven't sent their farm-only bill to conference with the Senate—and Senate Democrats are getting antsy:
“I’m calling on the speaker to send us what was passed on Thursday so we can begin to go to conference,” Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow told reporters in a conference call. House Republican leaders have said they may hang on to their measure until they can revise a nutrition title they removed from the bill — thus stalling conference negotiations.  
House Republicans, of course, don't want to send their farm bill to conference because they know the Senate will just put Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funding right back in. The question is who has the political leverage to prevail. As Stabenow points out, food stamps will continue being funded, farm bill or not, in the short term. But history suggests that if Republicans can peel food stamps off from the farm bill, they may be able to make serious cuts. That path does hold political dangers for Republicans, but not to the tea partiers pushing for cuts:
“It’s another one of these 47 percent things,” [University of Kansas political science professor Burdett] Loomis said, referring to the presidential candidate Mitt Romney comment about government dependency to a group of donors that was secretly videotaped. “The real damage isn’t to Tim Huelskamp in western Kansas or Mike Pompeo in Wichita. The real damage is to Republican presidential hopefuls.”
So what wins out? Democrats have a lot of leverage in that the Senate won't pass the House bill and the president won't sign it and food stamp funding will continue, at least for now, and Republicans will hurt their national brand by trying to cut a program that keeps millions of kids and millions of seniors and millions of working people from hunger. You never want to place too big a bet against the ability of hostage-taking zealots in the House to force drastic cuts, one way or another, at whatever cost to the nation and their party, but still, this is one Democrats should be able to win.

Originally posted to Laura Clawson on Tue Jul 16, 2013 at 08:55 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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