The bill would have cut $2 billion annually from food stamps and let states impose broad new work requirements on those who receive them, but those cuts weren't deep enough for the 62 Republicans who voted against it, objecting to the cost of the nearly $80 billion-a-year food stamp program, which has doubled in the past five years.
The bill also suffered from lack of Democratic support necessary for the traditionally bipartisan farm bill to pass. Only 24 Democrats voted in favor of the legislation after many said the food stamp cuts could remove as many as 2 million needy recipients from the rolls, according to reports. The addition of the optional state work requirements by Republican amendment just before final passage also turned away many remaining Democratic votes the bill's supporters may have had.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., has argued the bill is necessary to avoid farm crises of the past and that it has some of the biggest reforms in years. The measure would have saved around $4 billion after new subsidies were created for crop insurance, rice and peanut farmers. Just before the vote, Lucas pleaded for his colleagues' support.
The Senate overwhelmingly passed its version of the farm bill on June 10, with about $2.4 billion a year in overall cuts and a $400 million annual decrease in food stamps - one-fifth of the House bill's food stamp cuts. If the two chambers cannot come together on a bill, farm-state lawmakers are likely to push for an extension of the 2008 farm bill that expires in September. However, Lucas remained optimistic that a compromise can be made.
"We are assessing all of our options, but I have no doubt that we will finish our work in the near future and provide the certainty that our farmers, ranchers and rural constituents need," Lucas said.