The Senate passed their version of the farm bill on Thursday, with a 86-11 vote.
The farm bill is monumental legislation that sets the eating and farming policy in the United States – including what Americans grow, what Americans know about their dinner and how much the government spends in the process – for about five years.
All eyes will now turn to efforts between the House and Senate to resolve major issues between their respective bills by September 30, the deadline for the expiration of the current law, which was enacted in 2014.
At the top of the list is the House Republican overhaul of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP – the primary reason none of the chamber’s Democrats supported the traditionally bipartisan effort. The program itself serves more than 40 million people annually and accounts for almost 80 percent of the bill’s $430 billion cost over five years.
The House-passed bill would require able-bodied adults without children under the age of six to work a minimum of 20 hours per week in order to maintain benefits, and also tighten overall eligibility requirements while moving money from the program to other work-related programs.
The Senate largely steered clear of major changes to the program – despite a try by GOP Sens. Mike Lee and Ted Cruz to tack on an amendment to address SNAP – and kept the bill’s bipartisan imprimatur as a result
The two sides will now need to reconcile those differences.
For its part, the White House is supportive of the House effort. Department of Agriculture administrator Sonny Purdue called for the measure in an outline he sent to Congress in January that listed Trump administration priorities for the legislation.
The Trump administration’s statement of administration policy urged the Senate to adopt an approach on food stamps language similar to the House version. It did not, however, include a veto threat on to the Senate legislation.
Staff in both chambers have already started to hash out the differences in the two versions in an effort reach a resolution and get the bills to the president’s desk quickly, aides said.