The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed the 2018 farm bill Thursday, called for a second time after it failed in May.
The vote comes one day before their deadline to consider the bill.
H.R. 2 had no Democrat support and 20 Republicans voted against it as well.
It sets in place more comprehensive work requirements for recipients of federal food assistance. Able-bodied recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, that aren’t pregnant or caring for children would need to either work at least 20 hours per week or spend that time in job training.
Polls have shown broad support for a work requirement for SNAP.
Nearly 2 million Illinoisans use SNAP. Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office sought and received an exemption to an existing work requirement that critics said used a loophole to qualify for it.
Republicans who supported the bill touted its benefits for farmers and the economy.
“Protecting our agricultural economy is essential to the sustainability of our rural areas,” said Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro. “I’m proud of the provisions I fought to have included in this Farm Bill and will continue moving the ball forward until this legislation is signed into law.”
Democrats said the requirement will lead to more poverty.
“It still leaves farmers and ranchers vulnerable, it worsens hunger and it fails rural communities,” said Rep. Collin C. Peterson, a Minnesota Democrat and ranking member of the House Ag Committee. “The only upside to its passage is that we’re one step closer to conference, where it’s my hope that cooler heads can and will prevail.”
The uniform Democratic opposition is a departure from Clinton-era support for a welfare-to-work programthat provided incentive to reintroduce welfare recipients back into the workforce.
“I think it’s really sad that ‘work’ has become a four-letter work for the Democrat Party,” said Tarren Bradgon, CEO and president of the Foundation for Government Accountability, a nonpartisan think tank focused on welfare reform. “This bill means that millions of Americans will move from welfare to work, getting started on their own American dream.”
The Senate must now reconcile this bill with its own. The current farm bill provisions end in September. Farm bills are in place for five years.