Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas and ranking member Rep. Collin Peterson are optimistic that the farm bill will easily pass the committee.
“We’ve already had the debate over food stamps. So why don’t we take the number that the House already agreed to?” asked the Kansas Republican, who is a farmer by trade. “Someone’s got to defend the House budget position in the committee,” he added.
Sixteen of the 26 Republicans on the committee are freshmen, like Huelskamp, and he said they should have more of a say in influencing the bill to the right.
Adding to the Republican pressure, a slew of conservative groups, including Heritage Action for America, Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks and Americans for Tax Reform, sent a letter to Members on Tuesday strongly opposing the bill.
Rep. Mike Conaway said that under other circumstances, he would like to cut more from the SNAP program, but to do so now would jeopardize the bill entirely.
“We don’t think we’ve got 24 GOP votes. We think we have guys on the committee, three or more, that won’t vote for anything,” the Texas Republican said. “When you don’t have the votes on your side to pass a bill, either on the floor or in the committee, then you have to have help from the other side.”
Peterson said Tuesday that he has at least 10 Democrats who confirmed they will vote for the farm bill, and that should not be a tough hurdle on a committee stacked with conservative Blue Dog Democrats.
But the bill is still rankling other Democrats. Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn (S.C.) became the highest-ranking Democrat to publicly oppose the bill Tuesday, and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) indicated he is none too happy with the food stamp cuts, either.
“Mr. Hoyer has strong concerns about the impact of the cuts to food assistance to our nation’s most vulnerable citizens,” spokesman Dan Reilly said.
Rep Jim McGovern said he will offer an amendment to preserve the SNAP program at its current finding level, calling the level of cuts in the bill “unconscionable” and “immoral.”
“If that fails, I’m against the bill in committee, and I’m going to fight like hell against it on the House floor,” the Massachusetts Democrat said. Peterson “endorsed it, but I didn’t. I understand you’ve got to make deals around this place, but sometimes there are things called bad deals, and this is a bad deal.”