Lawmakers have struck a final farm bill deal that scraps a plan — backed by House Republicans and President Donald Trump — that would have added new work requirements on food stamp beneficiaries.
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, confirmed Thursday that the farm bill deal does not include House GOP plans to add new work requirements for older food stamp recipients and for parents of children ages 6 and older. Removing those requirements clears the way for a vote in Congress next week.
The Senate and House had been at an impasse for months over the $400 billion farm bill, which allocates federal money for farm subsidies, food stamps and conservation efforts.
A bipartisan Senate version of the bill did not include the work requirements, which were opposed by the chamber’s Democrats.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said the House largely will have to accept the Senate’s position on the nutrition program.
“I don’t think we can get a single Democrat to vote for some of the requirements in the House nutrition title,” he said.
The four lawmakers leading the negotiations — Sens. Roberts and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., the leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee, as well as Reps. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and Collin Peterson, D-Minn. — announced Thursday morning they had an agreement in principle.
The White House had not signed off on the legislation, Roberts said.
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Some Senate Republicans supported new food stamp limits, but Roberts told reporters that the House bill could not have passed the Senate without changes.
“You have to have something that will pass the Senate,” he said. “We took a more comprehensive approach.”
Thune said Republicans also would make concessions in the debate over forest fires, an issue that had been elevated to the Senate and House leadership teams after negotiators reached an impasse on the issue in the wake of deadly wildfires in California.
Trump’s administration and House Republicans advocated for new rules to expedite forest-thinning projects, but Democrats and environmental groups successfully protested the measure, warning it would be an ineffective tool against fires. Those provisions will be stripped from the final version.
The new deal faces opposition from some of the most conservative House Republicans. Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina, who leads the Republican Study Committee, signaled his potential opposition, citing conservative support for stricter food stamp work requirements.
“House conservatives, the president and the vast majority of Americans support policies that encourage work and help lift people out of poverty,” Walker said on Twitter. “As I’ve said for months, those provisions have to stay.”
Liberal groups oppose the proposed restrictions on food stamps, which they say are needed for people in poverty. An estimated 800,000 and 1.1 million households would have faced food stamp benefit cuts under one of the House Republican proposals, according to a study by the Mathematica Policy Research, a policy research organization.