House advances farm bill after hours of heated debate

The morning was filled with substantive and procedural complaints from Democrats, and three procedural votes related to those complaints. Several Democrats said Republicans should be ashamed of moving a farm bill without a food stamp title.

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"What are you thinking? Or are you thinking?" House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said of the idea of stripping out food stamps. "Taking food out of the mouths of babies? That's a good policy? I don't think so."

Democrats also seized on comments from House Rules Committee Pete Sessions (R-Texas), who said Republicans are trying to move a bill that can pass by removing "extraneous" portions that were controversial. That led several Democrats to say Sessions was calling the food stamp program, and even people on food stamps, as "extraneous."

Sessions explained that the GOP was trying to pass some version of a farm bill so it can be conferenced with the Senate, which has passed a bill that includes a food stamp title. A House bill including food stamps failed in June, as dozens of Republicans thought it didn't cut enough, and all but two dozen Democrats thought it cut too much.

Sessions said a House-Senate conference would get around that problem.

"In that conference, it is fully authorized, and the House would simply not have taken a position," Sessions said of a theoretical conference discussion. "To assume or to say that we are trying to move a bill without nutrition and to take things away would not be truthful."

But Democrats said openly that they don't trust Republicans, and many grumbled and guffawed loudly in the chamber when Sessions said repeatedly that Republicans care about people who have fallen down on hard times and need federal aid.

It took several hours just to get to the vote on the rule for the bill due to Democratic procedural tactics. Democrats started by calling for the House to adjourn, a delay tactic that was defeated 125-260.

Democrats then asked for a vote to protest the way Republicans were charging time against Democrats asking unanimous consent to enter statements against the bill into the record. The House had to hold a roll call vote to table that request.

Later on, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) started objecting to these unanimous consent requests, prompting Democrats to ask if these objections would mean members could not have their statements entered into the record.

Democrats also asked for another roll call vote to adjourn, which was defeated 138-265.

The legislation itself is similar to the language on commodity programs that the House considered in June, with two main changes. One is the removal of food stamps, and other is the repeal of underlying laws from decades ago on farm policy that could take effect whenever farm programs are not extended.

The legislation would revert back to current farm policy language in the event programs are not authorized.