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Senate denies additional GOP cuts to farm bill

The U.S. Senate rejected farm-bill amendments Tuesday to further cut the food-stamp program.

The Democratic majority voted down Republican proposals to limit eligibility for food-stamp recipients and halt federal bonus payments to states for administering the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Republican Sens. Dan Coats and Richard Lugar of Indiana voted for the two amendments, which were sponsored by Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.

The bill to reauthorize agriculture and nutrition programs for the next five years already contains $4.3 billion in reductions to food stamps.

The Senate voted 66-33 against an amendment to restore the proposed cuts.

“It’s beneath this body to cut food assistance for those who are struggling the most among us,” said sponsor Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.

Opponents said the reductions will come in large part from ending a practice by some states to provide home heating assistance to low-income people to qualify them for SNAP benefits.

Coats and Lugar voted against restoring the cuts. The measure was among 73 amendments the Senate was to vote on Tuesday and today.

In a bipartisan vote, senators soundly defeated an amendment to end subsidies to farmers who earn more than $250,000. Coats and Lugar voted against the proposal from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.

“The wealthy shouldn’t be receiving farm subsidies,” Paul said on the Senate floor, naming ex-NBA star Scottie Pippen and adult-entertainment mogul Larry Flynt among those who do.

Lugar also joined a bipartisan majority in defeating a measure to prevent farmers from having to pay for private-sector farm marketing efforts, commonly called check-off programs, such as “Got Milk?” Coats voted in favor of the amendment.

The Hoosier senators voted against an amendment offered by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, to redirect $150 million to rural development. The proposal passed in a party-line vote.

Also approved was an amendment urging schools to serve peas, beans and lentils. Lugar voted for the amendment; Coats voted against it.

The farm bill, which sets spending levels at $970 billion over a decade, contains elements of legislation sponsored last year by Lugar, including replacing direct federal payments to farmers with subsidized crop insurance to protect their income from yield and price drops. The Senate is expected to vote on the legislation this week.

bfrancisco@jg.net

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