House Republicans triggered a political melee Thursday after stripping food stamps from the farm bill, as Democrats lined up to accuse their colleagues of attacking "poor people."
The debate on the floor was intense, as House leaders trudged toward a possible vote later in the day.
The farm bill historically has been a vehicle for both billions in farm subsidies and billions in food stamps. Twinning the two massive programs has in the past helped win support from both rural-state lawmakers and those representing big cities. But after the bill failed in the House last month amid opposition from rank-and-file Republicans, House leaders removed the food stamp portion in a bid to attract conservative support.
Democrats, though, reacted furiously, making clear that Republicans will largely have to go it alone if they want to proceed.
"It's all about denying the working poor the right to food," Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., claimed, accusing Republicans of attacking "poor people."
One by one, members of the Congressional Black Caucus lined up to assail the proposal. "There are poor children in poor areas that I represent," Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., said.
Republicans, while concerned about the ballooning cost and enrollment in the $80 billion-a-year food stamp program, are not by any means eliminating food stamps by taking it out of the farm bill. They would instead deal with it as a separate bill.