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Farm Bill Ties Food Stamps to Work, Adjusts Farm Aid
Democrats worry work mandate is designed to push people out of program

House Agriculture Chairman K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, at podium, introduces the farm bill at a news conference on Thursday. Flanking him, from left, Reps. Neal Dunn, R-Fla., James R. Comer, R-Ky., Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., Roger Marshall, R-Kan., Ralph Abraham, R-La., Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, and Rick W. Allen, R-Ga. (Ellyn Ferguson/CQ Roll Call)

The House Agriculture Committee released its 2018 farm bill Thursday with proposals to reshape the nation’s largest domestic food aid program, consolidate conservation efforts and tweak farm aid.

The bill arrives amid controversy over its focus on shifting funding within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, into work and training programs.

Pelosi Urges Democrats to Oppose Farm Bill, Balanced Budget Amendment, Rescissions
Minority leader pens Dear Colleague letter on 'what challenges lie ahead'

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is urging her colleagues to oppose the farm bill and a balanced budget amendment measure. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi welcomed her Democratic colleagues back from a two-week spring recess with a “Dear Colleague” letter urging them to oppose several upcoming pieces of legislation. 

Included in Pelosi’s list was the farm bill reauthorizing agriculture programs, which is typically a bipartisan measure. But Republicans this year have been pushing to add work requirements to food stamps, formally known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. 

Paul Ryan’s Broad Strokes on Poverty
Speaker reiterates favored outline on workforce development

Speaker Paul D. Ryan has been touting the Republican economic philosophy during a tour of Texas. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Capping a visit to North Texas, Speaker Paul D. Ryan on Tuesday returned to a favored topic — federal anti-poverty programs — during a visit to Catholic Charities Fort Worth. 

Coming off his appearance Monday before Southwest Airlines employees to tout the Republican economic philosophy, particularly tax cuts, Ryan offered a broad vision for workforce development policies rather than an idea of what Congress could actually move on this year.

Democrats Put Farm Bill Talks on Hold
Minority party says it can’t negotiate until it sees text and other info

House Agriculture ranking Democrat Collin C. Peterson says his party is done talking about the farm bill until the majority Republicans start sharing information. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

For those tracking the farm bill, the top question this week is whether the House Agriculture Committee chairman and ranking member can reopen talks that stalled last week, after Democrats balked at possible cuts to the food stamp program.

Rep. Collin C. Peterson, the top committee Democrat, said Thursday he would heed his colleagues’ request that he stop negotiations until Chairman K. Michael Conaway gives members the text of the proposed farm bill, along with Congressional Budget Office cost estimates and impact assessments.

Opinion: Putting the ‘N’ in SNAP Should Be a Farm Bill Priority
Program should be strengthened to promote nutrition among SNAP recipients

Among the recommendations of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s SNAP Task Force is continuing incentives for recipients to consume fresh fruits and vegetables (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As Congress begins its deliberations on this year’s farm bill, it’s time to pay more attention to the “N” in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Launched as a pilot program by President John F. Kennedy and expanded nationwide by President Richard Nixon, the food stamps program — now SNAP — has enjoyed bipartisan support over its nearly 60-year history. From its initial goals of supporting farm incomes and ensuring low-income families did not face hunger, it has evolved into an effective anti-poverty program. That evolution continues today with a focus on nutrition.

Candidate for Franks’ Seat Denies Receiving Topless Photos
Steve Montenegro faces scandal in race to replace disgraced Arizona congressman

Arizona congressional candidate Steve Montenegro calls a report that he received topless photos from a legislative staffer “tabloid trash.” (SteveMontenegro.com)

Republican congressional candidate Steve Montenegro, who is running to replace disgraced Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, is facing his own scandal a week before next Tuesday’s primary.

Montenegro, who resigned his state Senate seat to run for the House post, received topless photos from a legislative staffer, according to a series of text messages that were reviewed and reported by KPNX in Phoenix.

Big Spending Goals, Zero Focus on Deficit in Trump Speech
The word “deficit” appeared in the State of the Union only once

President Donald Trump arrives in the House chamber to deliver his State of the Union address Tuesday. The word “deficit” came up in his speech only once. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump laid out plans in his State of the Union address Tuesday for additional spending on infrastructure, border security, defense, workforce training and paid family leave programs.

But he didn’t include any details on paying for those programs. The word “deficit” didn’t appear once in Trump’s speech — except to tout the nation’s “infrastructure deficit,” by which he meant more spending.

Cold Snap Showed Grid Resilience, Lawmakers are Told

Tourists walk past the U.S. Capitol as snow flurries blow in heavy winds in Washington on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018. A bomb cyclone winter storm battered the east coast of the United states with heavy winds, snow, and frigid temperatures. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The recent cold snap and “bomb cyclone” weather event that chilled much of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast this month appears to have showed the reliability and resilience of the electric grid as currently operated, energy officials said Tuesday at congressional oversight hearing.

But it also showed some of the vulnerabilities to the grid, especially as they relate to energy infrastructure, including natural gas pipelines, as wholesale market consumers saw high prices in response to record demand.

Trump Heads Down to the Farm (Bureau)
Address to convention will be first by a U.S. president since George H.W. Bush

President Donald Trump will address the American Farm Bureau Federation national convention on Monday. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump addresses the American Farm Bureau Federation’s national convention on Monday — the first president to attend since George H.W. Bush in 1992.

The president will discuss key points of an administration report the White House says is designed to boost the rural economy.

Opinion: 2018 Could Be Oddly Productive
Who says Congress can’t get things done during an election year?

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray, shown here in 2013, are throwing their weight behind legislation to promote evidence-based policymaking. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

As we enter 2018, the pundit class is already pushing the usual refrain that nothing important gets done in an election year. It is always safe to be cynical in uncertain times, and low expectations have an undeniable appeal. But history does not support the premise that legislative achievements occur only in odd years. Moreover, I challenge anyone to say that 2018 won’t be odd.

The theory of election year incapacitation harks back to a time when lawmaking had a strategic cadence. Members of Congress would focus on policy for 18 months and then shift their concern to re-election. Now, our democracy exists in a constant election cycle. New members of Congress hold fundraisers before taking the oath of office, and the tyranny of our digital society ensures that every vote, utterance and facial expression becomes campaign fodder. While this perpetual election has many grim implications, it also has served to diminish the distinction between “on” and “off” years.