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Senate passes mammoth farm bill

The Hill logo The Hill 6/28/2018 Jordain Carney

The Senate easily cleared their farm bill on Thursday, setting up a fight with House Republicans over new restrictions on food stamps.

Senators voted 86-11 to pass the bill before leaving for the weeklong July Fourth recess. Sixty votes were needed to pass the bill.

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GOP Sens. Richard Burr (N.C.), Bob Corker (Tenn.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Dean Heller (Nev.), James Inhofe (Okla.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), James Lankford (Okla.), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Pat Toomey (Pa.) voted against the bill.

The $428 billion farm bill authorizes agriculture assistance and nutrition programs for the next five years. The current farm bill expires on Sept. 30.

"Today marks an important day for farm country. We are one step closer to providing farmers and ranchers a Farm Bill with the certainty and predictability they deserve," said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the panel, added that the Senate legislation "proves that bipartisanship is a tried and true approach to getting things done."

The House and Senate will need to merge their respective bills before the final legislation can be sent to the White House for President Trump's signature.

Unlike the Senate bill, where Democratic support is needed, the House legislation included changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, setting up a high-profile fight for conferees to navigate.

The House legislation, which passed narrowly last week, imposes new work requirements on the food stamps program and tightens overall eligibility on who can qualify for the federal assistance.

Conservatives and Trump have seized on the work requirement as key to a final farm bill.

"Farm Bill just passed in the House. So happy to see work requirements included. Big win for the farmers!" Trump said in a tweet shortly after the House bill passed.

GOP senators also tried, ultimately unsuccessfully, to add new work requirements to the Senate legislation.

"A major portion of the bill is of course the food stamps program. The food stamps program provides important support to people who are in need. But at the same time we should not be trapping people in dependency," Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said during a Senate floor speech.

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