WASHINGTON - Rep. Tim Walz voted Thursday against the U.S. House of Representatives' version of the farm bill that only included the agriculture portions and split off the nutrition and food stamp portions.
Walz, a Democrat serving his fourth term, denounced the bill as a "partisan, broken" maneuver.
The agriculture only farm bill was brought up for a vote by Republican House leadership on Thursday as an effort to make up for the surprise defeat of the compromise farm bill on June 20. The decision to split the farm bill was intended to appease Republicans who voted down the compromise bill over demands for even deeper cuts to food stamps. The farm bill historically combines the nutrition and agriculture portions into one bill because of their complementary nature and to create a coalition to ensure both parts are passed.
All Democrat representatives voted against the House bill on Thursday.
Walz, the ranking member of the U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy and Forestry, accused the Republicans of "hatching this abomination in the middle of the night and forcing it here because of extremist elements." He said that the bill endangered the future for farmers and noted that both the Minnesota Farm Bureau and the Minnesota Farmers Union opposed the idea.
Walz previously voted for the June 20 version of the bill that cut $20.5 billion from the food assistance funding. He has been adamant about his opposition to split the bill, arguing that it made the passage of the agriculture portions more vulnerable in the long run. He also opposes treating recipients of food stamps "as criminals," pointing to the fact that the majority of food stamps go to children and the elderly.
Despite his opposition, Walz stated on Wednesday that he was open to the possibility of voting for a split bill to move it forward. He cited "the dire need" of farmers to know what government regulations they would be subject to this year.
A spokesman for Walz said that his Thursday vote against the split bill was determined by increased opposition in the Senate. The spokesman also stated Walz voted against the bill because he opposed its efforts to end the 1939 and 1949 Farm laws that revert the farm legislation back to the farm bill passed in those years.
"I am disappointed that instead of working together in bipartisan fashion to pass a farm bill that works for producers and consumers alike, Tea-Party Republicans have yet again chosen to push a partisan, broken bill to nowhere," Walz said.
The bill now goes to conference committee to determine a final, compromise version. It will then be brought back to each chamber for a final vote.