Inhofe’s amendment would have repealed the nutrition entitlement programs and established a nutrition assistance block grant program for states instead. He said his amendment would allow the Senate to separate the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, from the farm bill.
The Senate is considering a $955 billion five-year farm bill and is expecting to continue amendment work through the week.
S. 954 would cut more than $23 billion from current spending levels over 10 years, including $4 billion worth of cuts to food stamps, which has led to some Democratic opposition.
Inhofe complained that a $4 billion cut wasn’t enough, adding that the farm bill should be about farms rather than a “charity program.”
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) urged senators to oppose Inhofe’s amendment because it would cap the supplemental nutrition at half the current levels.
“I rise in strong opposition to block granting and cutting the food assistance program,” Stabenow said. “We have a value system that says we’re going to make sure when families are hit on hard times to no fault of their own, that they’re not going to starve. … I think that’s the best about us.”
She also said that block grants wouldn’t guarantee that the states use the funds to feed needy families.
GOP Sens. Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Saxby Chambliss (Ala.), John Hoeven (N.D.), Rob Portman (Ohio), Bob Corker (Tenn.), Pat Roberts (Kan.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) voted with Democrats against the amendment.
After the vote on Inhofe's amendment failed, the Senate unanimously consented to passing an amendment from Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), which would allow grocery delivery services for seniors and people with disabilities on food stamps. An amendment from Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) was also agreed to. Vitter's amendment would prohibit some convicted felons from receiving food assistance benefits.
The White House has said it supports the Senate farm bill.
The House has a $940 billion farm bill that cuts spending by $39.7 billion over 10 years — $20.5 billion are cuts to food stamps. The House bill likely won’t get a floor vote until June.