House Social Workers Split on Farm Bill

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With a vote of 251-166, the U. S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2642—the Agricultural Act of 2014, ending a two-year stalemate on funding for the nation’s food supply industry. The final version of the $956 billion legislation—crafted by a bicameral committee of House and Senate agriculture leadership—cuts $8 billion over the next decade from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which provides food stamps to more than 47 million Americans in 23 million households. The House version of the farm bill would have cut SNAP by $39 billion over 10 years while the Senate version would have reduced SNAP by $4.1 billion over the same period. The average monthly SNAP benefit in 2013 was $133.07 for individuals and $234.98 per household. The legislation which President Barack Obama has said he would sign once it reaches his desk will end the 18-year-old direct subsidy to farmers that will be replaced by two options for crop insurance.

StabenowSocial workers in the House of Representatives split on the measure with four members—Susan Davis (CA-53), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-1), Allyson Schwartz (PA-13) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-9) voting for the bill and three—Barbara Lee (D-13), Luis Gutierrez (IL-4) and Niki Tsongas (MA-5) voting against the bill. The House leadership on both sides of the floor all voted for the bill including House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. Twenty-two members of the Congressional Social Work Caucus voted for the bill, while 35 members voted against it. In all 162 Republicans and 89 Democrats voted for the bill while 89 Democrats and 63 Republicans voted against the bill. Most Republicans who voted against the bill wanted larger cuts in SNAP while the Democrats who voted against the bill did not want any cuts to the food assistance program.

Debbie Stabenow, a social worker and chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, praised the compromise bill: “Today’s bipartisan agreement puts us on the verge of enacting a five-year Farm Bill that saves taxpayers billions, eliminates unnecessary subsidies, creates a more effective farm safety-net and helps farmers and businesses create jobs,” the Michigan Democrat stated.

The House moved swiftly to pass the legislation in the wake of President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night when he criticized the Congress for dragging its feet on a number of issues and doing a disservice to the American people by failing to act on issues of grave importance to the nation. He chided members of Congress for moving too slowly on completing transportation and waterways putting in jeopardy three million jobs and for cutting the budget for basic research that might lead to the next great American discovery. The President took Congress to task for letting unemployment benefits expire and for dragging its feet on his request for expansion of pre-kindergarten education. He urged Congress to act on burgeoning student loan debt and scolded federal legislators for not raising the minimum wage. He told Congress that wherever there was an opportunity for the Executive Branch to act without the Congress, he would do it and announced he would issue an Executive Order that federal contract workers would be paid a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour.

There is no way to know how much the President’s words moved members of Congress but I sat watching the speech feeling that I would be quite uncomfortable listening to the President if I was a member of Congress. The State of the Union address was generally well received by both conservative and progressive commentators. So it was not surprising that the House of Representatives moved quickly to pass the farm bill with Congress having a 13 percent approval rating according to this month’s Gallup Poll.

Written By Charles E. Lewis Jr., Ph.D

House Social Workers Split on Farm Bill was originally published @ Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy » Charles Lewis and has been syndicated with permission.

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