The Senate, as expected, voted this afternoon to preserve the price-support program for sugar growers and to retain federal control of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. They were the first of many amendments still under consideration for the farm bill. (S 3240). The Senate voted 50-46 to table, or kill, a proposal by Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., to phase out supply controls for sugar. Fifteen Democrats joined 31 Republicans in supporting her amendment. The second amendment, proposed by Rand Paul, R-Ky., to turn SNAP over to the states, was rejected 65-33.
The ranking Republican on Senate Agriculture, Pat Roberts of Kansas, told me off the floor that senators continue to negotiate on a final set of amendments for the Senate to consider. Asked if a deal was possible yet today, he said, “I thought we were pretty close yesterday. It’s a work in progress.”
After the votes, the partisan posturing over the bill continued. As he did Tuesday, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., moved to bring up a select series of amendments, but Tom Coburn, R-Okla., blocked Reid’s plan. Coburn complained that Reid was picking “low-priority” amendments to make it appear the Senate was doing more than it is. Reid defended the sugar and SNAP measures as ‘important amendments.” Coburn noted that opponents of the sugar program preferred to bring up another amendment that would pare back the program rather than end it.
After that exchange, Reid then moved to set votes on two additional amendments with no chance of passing: one by Jim DeMint, R-S.C., would convert the bill’s mandatory funding to discretionary funding; the other, proposed by Coburn, would kill the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. No word yet on when those votes will be.