Final Senate Vote on Farm Bill

June 25, 2012

The Senate passed a nearly $1 trillion farm bill last week that would maintain the farming industry’s dependency on taxpayers and  keep food stamp spending at permanently elevated levels. Although the bill’s supporters claim that it amounts to major “reform,” the reality is that it’s just bipartisan big government business-as-usual.

The vote count was 64 to 35. All but five Democrats joined 16 Republicans in voting to pass the bill. However, it appears that many of the no votes had nothing to do with concerns about the legislation’s burden on taxpayers. Republican Senators John Boozman (AR), Saxby Chambliss (GA), Thad Cochran (MS), Johnny Isakson (GA), and Roger Wicker (MS) and Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu (LA) all issued a press release stating that they voted against the bill because it didn’t sufficiently benefit farmers in their state. It’s possible that others voted against it on grounds that the bill wasn’t big government enough.

Here are the 16 Senate Republicans (members of the so-called “Party of Limited Government”) who voted for the monstrosity:

Lamar Alexander (TN)

John Barrasso (WY)

Roy Blunt (MO)

Scott Brown (MA)

Dan Coats (IN)

Susan Collins (ME)

Mike Enzi (WY)

Chuck Grassley (IA)

John Hoeven (ND)

Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX)

Mike Johanns (NE)

Richard Lugar (IN)

Jerry Moran (KS)

Pat Roberts (KS)

Olympia Snowe (ME)

John Thune (SD)


A final note:

Farm subsidies are the quintessential example of special-interest spending. But a Washington Times article shows that even programs like food stamps have moneyed interests working behind the scenes to increase spending:

Coinciding with lobbying by convenience stores, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the program in conjunction with states, contends that disclosing how much each store authorized to accept benefits, known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), receives in taxpayer funds would amount to revealing trade secrets. As a result, fraud is hard to track and the efficacy of the massive program is impossible to evaluate…

Profiting from the poor’s taxpayer-funded purchases has become big business for a mix of major companies and corner bodegas, which have spent millions of dollars lobbying Congress and the USDA to keep the money flowing freely. The National Association of Convenience Store Operators alone spends millions of dollars on lobbying yearly, including $1 million in the first quarter of this year. In February, 7-Eleven hired a former aide to House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, to lobby on “issues related to the general application and approval process for qualified establishments serving SNAP-eligible recipients.”

My friend Steve Ellis from Taxpayers for Common Sense nails it:

“USDA hides behind a specious proprietary data argument: The public doesn’t want to know internal business decisions or information about specific individuals’ finances,” he said. “The USDA sees retailers, junk food manufacturers and the big ag lobby as their customers, rather than the taxpayer.”

Ditto the United States Senate.


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