House to send farm bill to Senate

The House will send its version of the farm bill to the Senate on Tuesday. 

Physically sending the text of the bill across the Rotunda will enable Senate Democrats to seek to appoint members to a House-Senate farm bill conference.

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On Monday, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) accused House Republican leaders of holding up a conference by not sending the farm bill to the Senate. The legislation was approved in the House on Thursday, but is significantly different than the Senate's farm bill, as it includes no food stamp title. 

A GOP leadership aide said the criticism was unfair and that the delay was purely technical and happened because the House clerk was processing the bill. 

“Per usual, it appears Sen. Stabenow was more interested in rushing to play politics than simply waiting a few hours for the clerk’s office to do their due diligence,” a GOP leadership aide said Tuesday.

House leaders are expected to meet this week to determine the path forward on food stamps. The original House bill cut food stamps by $20.5 billion, but it failed spectacularly on the House floor.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) vowed to move a food stamp bill quickly and GOP sources say the most likely next step would be to add that title to the eventual House-Senate farm bill conference. 

The shape of the food stamps bill is still being worked out, but it could include the House-passed budget resolution plan to block grant the program and cut $135 billion over 10 years. 

Farm bill proponents on K Street are worried that a standoff could develop over the creation of a conference similar to that which has broken out over the 2014 budget resolution. 

In the budget fight, Senate Democrats on a weekly basis demand that a conference be convened while Senate Republicans block motions to appoint conferees. 

Senate Democrats reacted to the sending of the House farm bill by saying there is now no reason to delay conference. 

“Unlike what Leader Cantor said on the floor last week, the Senate’s position has been that conference should begin as soon as possible rather than waiting for the House to pass a separate nutrition bill,” a Senate aide said. “We are glad that the House has now decided it agrees and has sent over a bill so we can get to work.”

This story was updated at 11:23 a.m.