WASHINGTON — Southern Nevada lawmakers on Thursday helped to kill a five-year, half-trillion-dollar farm bill that would have cut $2 billion annually from food stamps and let states impose broad new work requirements on those who receive them.
Reps. Dina Titus and Steven Horsford, both Democrats, said the cutbacks were too much for them to swallow. Republican Rep. Joe Heck said the farm bill overall was “too big, too bloated, and too outdated.”
The vote was 234-195 against the bill, with 62 Republicans voting against it. Northern Nevada Rep. Mark Amodei, a Republican, voted for it.
The bill also suffered from lack of Democratic support necessary for the traditionally bipartisan farm bill to pass. Only 24 Democrats voted in favor of the legislation after many said the food stamp cuts could remove as many as 2 million needy recipients from the rolls.
“The farm bill would have increased hunger, hardship, and food insecurity, and I am glad it failed,” Horsford said.
The addition of the optional state work requirements by Republican amendment just before final passage turned away many Democratic votes.
Horsford said the amendment “would have allowed states to cut unemployed Americans’ food assistance, including for their children, because they cannot find jobs.”
Titus was smarting from the defeat Wednesday of her amendment to renew a grant program that enabled cities and companies to enter cost-sharing partnerships to identify pockets of hunger and deliver food there.
“It’s morally unacceptable to allow children to go hungry in the wealthiest country in the world,” she said.
Republicans objected to the cost of the nearly $80 billion-a-year food stamp program, which has doubled in the past five years.
Heck was among lawmakers who recommended that food stamps — formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — should be considered separately from the farm payments and crop subsidies in the bill. Farm-state lawmakers have for decades added food stamps to farm bills to garner urban votes for the rural bill. But that marriage has made passage harder this year.
Heck said there was a “lack of balance and real reforms in addressing the SNAP program that would both rein in costs while ensuring food security for those in need. An issue of this magnitude deserves to be debated, considered, and voted on as a separate bill, not as a part of the farm bill.”
Heck also was unhappy with crop subsidies in the bill, particularly for sugar that consumer groups say contributes to higher prices for candy and other products containing sweeteners.
“This bill did not do enough to make much-needed reforms to agricultural subsidies that are costing taxpayers billions of dollars,” Heck said.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said Thursday that the committee is assessing all its options and will continue its work in the “near future.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC.