Here we go again. Congress needs to pass a five-year multi-billion dollar farm bill, and conservative reforms have been scrubbed from the legislation.
The Associated Press reports lawmakers in both parties have rejected a plan to add new work requirements to the nation’s food stamp program, killing a plan supported by President Donald Trump and conservative Republicans.
Democrats and many Senate Republicans opposed the work requirements, which became the biggest stumbling block to an agreement on the farm bill. The legislation sets federal agricultural and food policy for five years and provides more than $400 billion in farm subsidies, conservation programs and food aid for the poor.
In a statement Thursday, House and Senate agriculture committee leaders from both parties said they had reached an agreement in principle but were working to finalize the bill’s language and costs.
“We still have more work to do. We are committed to delivering a new farm bill to America as quickly as possible,” said the statement by Sens. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Reps. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and Collin Peterson, D-Minn.
House Republicans passed a bill with these new work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) without Democratic support earlier this year, requiring that food stamp recipients between ages 18-59 work at least 20 hours a week and requiring parents with children older than 6 to work or participate in job training. But those conservative reforms died in the Senate, where Democrats in the minority will block legislation they don’t like and Republicans in the majority will kowtow to their demands to avoid a partial government shutdown.
“You have to have something that will pass the Senate,” was the excuse Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., gave. “We took a more comprehensive approach.”
With the Democrats ready to assume control of the House in January, conservative lawmakers will now be pressured to advance the bill without needed reforms in the lame-duck session.
Welfare reform was yet another promise Republicans made on the campaign trail that they have now abandoned in the majority. How much longer will conservatives tolerate the Senate’s obstruction of a conservative agenda? Why is it that for every conservative priority, the excuse given by Republican leadership is that there aren’t 60 votes, so we can’t pass the reforms? Is that not ridiculous? Does anybody actually believe the Founding Fathers envisioned a super-majority requirement in the Senate to advance even basic policy changes?
If Democrats refuse to cross over to support the majority agenda, the onus is on Senate Republican leaders like Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to force their hand. Tell them it’s the conservative bill, or a government shutdown.
If conservatives don’t have leaders willing to do that, then we will never pass legislation out of Congress. And if we can’t legislate, if we can’t pass conservative policies, what’s the point of the conservative movement?
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify that only new work requirements have been dropped from the bill. Older work requirements for the SNAP program would be left in place.
Chris Pandolfo is a staff writer and type-shouter for Conservative Review. He holds a B.A. in politics and economics from Hillsdale College. His interests are conservative political philosophy, the American founding, and progressive rock. Follow him on Twitter for doom-saying and great album recommendations @ChrisCPandolfo.
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