The House today passed a scaled-down version of a massive farm bill, putting off a fight over food stamp spending and giving Republican leaders a victory after a decisive defeat on the larger bill last month. GOP leaders scrambled to get the bill to the floor and gather enough votes after deciding to drop a politically sensitive food stamp section of the bill and pass legislation that contained only farm programs. Majority Leader Eric Cantor navigated his colleagues to a 216-208 vote by convincing Republican members that this was the best chance to get the bill passed and erase the embarrassment of the June defeat.
Republicans said the food stamp part of the legislation would be dealt with separately at a later date, and Cantor said after the vote that Republicans would "act with dispatch" to get that legislation to the floor. It called for a 3% cut to the $80 billion-a-year feeding program. Many Republicans say that isn't enough because the program's cost has doubled in the last five years, but Democrats have opposed any cuts. The Senate overwhelmingly passed a farm bill last month with only a half-percent cut to food stamps and would be reluctant to go along with a split bill or further cuts to the programs. (Read more farm bill stories.)