Senate passes farm bill in 66-27 vote

The Senate on Monday approved a five-year farm bill in a 66-27 vote.

More than 15 Republicans joined most Democrats in supporting the bill, which would cut $24 billion from farm spending over 10 years, including a $4 billion reduction to food stamps. Democratic Sens. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseThe Hill's 12:30 Report Senate amendments could sink email privacy compromise Honor Frank Lautenberg by protecting our kids MORE (R.I.) and Jack ReedJack ReedSenators push to authorize 4,000 more visas for Afghans Groups urge Senate to oppose defense language on for-profit colleges Reid throws wrench into Clinton vice presidential picks MORE (R.I.) were the only Democrats who voted against the bill.

Before the Senate vote, Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie StabenowDebbie StabenowSenators hope for deal soon on mental health bill The Hill's 12:30 Report Dems: GOP playing from 'Trump textbook' MORE (D-Mich.) touted her bill as supporting U.S. jobs while also reducing the deficit.

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“As we vote for this bill today, we support 16 million people who depend on agriculture for their jobs,” Stabenow said. “We are providing $24 billion in deficit reduction.”

The Senate passed a similar bill last year, but it was never enacted as the House failed to take up farm legislation.

Stabenow said she hopes that House leaders will allow a floor vote on a farm bill this year.

“Hopefully the House this time will complete this work and we’ll have an opportunity to go to conference,” Stabenow said. “The House, in my opinion, walked away from rural America last year.”

The House is working on a rival, $940 billion farm bill that cuts spending by $39.7 billion over 10 years, with $20.5 billion of the cuts coming food stamps. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) crafted the bill, which will likely get a floor vote later this month.

Democrats are firmly against the food stamp cuts in the House farm bill, and the differences between the two versions might be difficult to bridge in a conference committee.

The current farm bill expires Sept. 30, and lawmakers hope to reach agreement on a new bill before the August recess. 

“[The Senate version] is a bill that will send the message to the American people that we need to provide a certainty once and for all and do things in a timely fashion,” Sen. Heidi HeitkampHeidi HeitkampThe Hill's 12:30 Report House Dems urge Senate panel to vote on Ex-Im Bank nominee Senate Dems frustrated over lack of action on Ex-Im Bank nominee MORE (D-N.D.) said Monday.

The White House supports the Senate farm bill, S. 954, which shifts farm subsidies away from direct payments to farmers and toward expanded crop insurance. The bill also ties crop insurance subsidies to compliance of environmental standards.

The Senate considered several amendments to the bill. The final amendment passed on a 48-38 vote Monday, ahead of final passage. Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahyOvernight Cybersecurity: Guccifer plea deal raises questions in Clinton probe Senate panel delays email privacy vote amid concerns Senate amendments could sink email privacy compromise MORE (D-Vt.) introduced the measure, which would set up a five-year pilot program for high-speed Internet projects in rural areas. He said the Internet is no longer “a luxury but a necessity” for all communities.

The Senate passed an amendment before the Memorial Day recess that reduces crop insurance subsidies by 15 percent for those making more than $750,000 per year. The amendment passed despite the opposition of Stabenow and ranking member Thad CochranThad CochranSenate panel passes 4.5B defense bill Senate votes to block USDA catfish inspections GOP senators: Obama bathroom guidance is 'not appropriate' MORE (R-Miss.). The House draft farm bill does not have such a limitation.

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