The House is set to consider legislation this week to cut $40 billion from nutrition programs over 10 years in yet another test for House GOP leaders still licking their wounds from the defeat of their original incarnation of the farm bill earlier this summer.
This time, however, at least one of their chief antagonists will be staying mostly on the sidelines.
The Club for Growth, an influential conservative advocacy group that took some of the credit for successfully lobbying Republican lawmakers to oppose the farm bill, told CQ Roll Call on Monday it did not plan to "key vote" the nutrition bill, even though "it's clear that it's part of an overall charade to remarry food stamps with farm subsidies that we oppose," said spokesman Barney Keller. A key vote is used in scoring members’ bona fides before an election.
The nutrition bill, scheduled to come before the House Rules Committee Wednesday afternoon, is the second part of the bifurcated farm bill strategy GOP leaders devised after the original package failed on the House floor, with Democrats saying it cut too deeply and many Republicans saying it didn't cut deeply enough. The chamber passed a farm-program-only bill before the August recess, with no Democrats voting in favor.
Democrats aren't likely to support this measure either, which cuts $20 billion more from food stamps (officially the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) than it would have in the original farm bill package. The new bill will, among other things, tighten work requirements for childless adults seeking assistance.
"Instead of appointing farm bill conferees, the Republican Leadership has decided to move forward with an unnecessary and divisive nutrition bill," Rep. Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn., the ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, said in a statement Monday. "Even if this bill is defeated, as it should be, I worry the debate will eliminate any remaining goodwill needed to pass a farm bill."
On Tuesday, Democratic Reps. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, along with Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Marcia L. Fudge, D-Ohio, will join food aid activist and celebrity chef Tom Colicchio on Capitol Hill for a press conference to set the party's tone for the week ahead.