The U.S. Senate on Wednesday both approved and defeated farm-bill amendments co-sponsored by Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind.
The Democratic-controlled Senate voted 58-40 in favor of a Lugar-backed proposal to prohibit food assistance to North Korea unless the president issues a national-interest waiver. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., voted against the measure.
Lawmakers also defeated an amendment to ban all food aid to the Communist nation, with Coats and Lugar on opposite sides again.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said a sweeping prohibition would not allow for the U.S. to provide humanitarian relief in the event of North Korean political reforms similar to those in Myanmar.
Ronald Reagan said it best when he said very clearly that a hungry child knows no politics, said Kerry, sponsor of the presidential waiver.
The Senate later voted 53-46 against a Lugar-backed proposal to reduce federal sugar subsidies to pre-2008 levels.
Lugar and others contend sugar price supports and import restrictions increase the price of food for Americans. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said in floor debate that curbing the subsidies would threaten 142,000 jobs in the American sugar industry.
Lugar, defeated in the Republican primary election by Richard Mourdock, is a member of the ag panel that produced the 5-year bill to reauthorize agriculture and nutrition programs. Senators have been voting on 73 amendments this week. A vote on the finished legislation will likely come today.
The legislation sets spending at $970 billion over the next decade, a $23 billion reduction from current levels.
Among amendments approved Wednesday were those to prohibit land-conservation subsidies for millionaires and require crop-insurance recipients to comply with conservation laws. Lugar voted for both measures; Coats supported the former but not the latter. Among amendments defeated were those to send the bill back to the ag panel, eliminate the conservation reserve program and end assistance for bio-based manufacturing. In each case, Coats voted for the amendment and Lugar voted against it.