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House passes stripped-down farm bill

After failing to corral the votes last month for the standard five-year farm bill, which included funding for both agriculture programs and food stamps, the Republican-led House on Thursday passed a bill that funds just the agricultural side.

The measure passed 216 to 208, without the support of a single Democrat. President Obama's party blasted the measure as a partisan bill that ignores the critical food stamp program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), In a statement before the vote, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., called the bill a "shameful abandonment of the most vulnerable in our country."

In its current from, the bill is destined to go nowhere -- the Democratic-led Senate has already passed the standard farm bill and will almost certainly reject this splintered version. The White House has issued a veto threat. On top of that, the House plan to separate agricultural funding from the food stamp program has seen widespread opposition from hundreds of groups representing agriculture, conservation, rural development and other impacted sectors.

Traditionally, the farm bill has been paired with food stamps to ensure that both programs win broad, bipartisan support -- rural lawmakers support the food stamp program in exchange for urban lawmakers' support of agricultural funding. Before Thursday's vote, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., pointed out that when Democrats controlled the House, the farm will had such strong bipartisan support, Congress twice managed to overcome a presidential veto. Pelosi slammed the House's Republican leadership for failing to round up the Republican votes last month to pass the original farm bill.

"This is really amateur hour to the Nth degree now," she said.

The farm bill the House rejected last month would have made a 3 percent cut to the $80 billion-a-year food stamp program. Nevertheless, as many as 62 Republicans voted against it, saying the cuts weren't deep enough.

The bill passed today dropped the food stamp section, providing $20 billion for agriculture and cutting $2 billion in annual farm subsidies. House Republicans say they will bring up funding for the food stamp program in a separate measure later.

"Our farm and food stamp programs need reform," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement after the vote. "The status quo is unacceptable, which is why I voted against most of the farm bills of the past two decades, and supported this one. I'm pleased the House took a positive first step forward in providing some much-need reforms to our farm programs today. Reforming our food stamp programs is also essential."

Now that both the House and Senate have both passed farm bills, the two chambers can go to conference to attempt to reconcile the differences between their bills.

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