WASHINGTON, July 25, 2013 – While House Republicans are expected to continue closed door meetings on how to proceed with a stand-alone nutrition title bill, some conservative members expressed doubt Wednesday that they could get enough votes to approve it.

At their monthly meeting called “Conversations with Conservatives,” Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., and other Republicans, said it will be difficult to come up with the 218 necessary votes to approve such legislation, and that if so, it would not happen before the August recess.

“There’s a real potential that we’re going to have a conference report in September that will include that title without action by the House,” Huelskamp said.

The Senate-approved farm bill includes a nutrition title which authorizes food programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), while the House chose to separate the title from the rest of the farm policy legislation.

Huelskamp said “pre-conferencing” has already begun between the House and the Senate.

“[House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio,] has said the only time when they go to conference is when you’re almost done with negotiations,” he said, “I believe all of August will be about negotiating the farm bill.”

Further, he said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., have started their negotiations.

“As you know, negotiations in conference are not usually public…[but] they’re not going to wait until September,” he said.

Still, Huelskamp was pessimistic about the House bringing a nutrition bill into conference.

“I know there has been no discussion about how to get to 218 [votes],” he said. “It’s pretty easy not to get 218.”
Huelskamp, who represents the "Big First" district covering much of rural Kansas, no longer serves on the Agriculture Committee after falling out of favor with House GOP leaders last year. Along with 61 other GOP conservatives, he voted against final passage of the farm bill in June and was one of a handful of Republicans to also oppose the "farm only" farm bill which passed the House earlier this month.

He described the ongoing House discussions on a nutrition title bill as “very closed door.”

Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., said it was necessary to split the nutrition title from the farm bill. He noted that nearly 50 million people are enrolled in the SNAP program and the “costs have tripled.”

McClintock said it is better when legislation focuses on “more specific and single subjects” and that Republicans have advocated a split of SNAP from the farm bill for a long time.

Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., who was successful in adding an amendment to the House bill to implement work requirements to the SNAP program, said he does not think negotiations on food stamps will be done by Sept. 30 – when the one-year extension of the 2008 farm bill is set to expire.

Separately, Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., told Agri-Pulse that while House leadership is pushing to go into conference with a nutrition title, she thinks that is not necessary. Noem is part of the nutrition title working group that met again Wednesday afternoon.

“I have made that message clear to them that the sooner we can get into conference on a farm bill the better it is for ag policy,” Noem said. “But they really believe that they will have a stronger position by having some of their own House’s language in that conference and that’s why the really want to try to put a nutrition bill together.” 

Noem said she wants to be in conference during August, but said, “I know there is work that can be done outside of conference.”

 “I think the best case scenario in my book is to move the language that we can agree on, get into conference with the Senate so that when we come back, we’ve got a final bill that we can send to the president’s desk,” she said. 

Spencer Chase contributed to this article.


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