Senate passes veto-proof farm bill
Congress poised to override President Bush for only the second time.
With only 15 dissenting votes, the Senate passed a $307 billion five-year farm bill that President Bush says he will veto.Skip to next paragraph
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But with 81 senators supporting it and Wednesday's 318-106 vote for the final version of the bill, Congress has more than the two-thirds majority to override that veto. If the president vetoes the bill, as expected, it would be only the second override of the Bush presidency. Last December, Congress voted to override a presidential veto of a $23 billion water-projects bill.
In the Senate, many Republicans said they had to part ways with the president.
The omnibus bill, dubbed the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act, covers a vast range of federal agricultural policy, including farm support, trade policy, marketing, nutritional programs, and rural development. At a time when food prices are soaring, the prospect of billions in subsidies to farmers could have been a tough sell. But anticipating a fight, supporters made several key moves to bolster passage of the huge bill.
They cut traditional crop insurance programs by $3.8 billion and increased spending on nutrition ($10.3 billion), conservation ($2.7 billion), and energy programs ($600 million). The bill increases the minimum monthly benefit for food stamps and indexes household asset limits, lifts the cap on child care deductibility. Nearly two-thirds of all spending in the new bill is for nutrition programs.
"This additional funding will help stop the erosion of food stamp benefits, and increase the Emergency Food Assistance Program so that food banks can restock their shelves," said Kansas state Sen. Steve Morris, who chairs the farm bill working group for the National Conference of State Legislators, in a statement after the vote.
In the end, more than 500 groups lobbied for this bill, including hunger, religious, and conservation groups. "I've never seen such a broad coalition in support of this bill, but the president wants to veto it," says Sen. Tom Harkin (D) of Iowa, who chairs the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee.