This was a vote on final passage of legislation that would provide annual funding for Agriculture Department programs.
In total, the agriculture bill provided $125.5 billion for agriculture programs in fiscal year 2012. It cut federal funding a number of nutritional assistance and food aid programs. For example, the bill cut $685 million from the Women, Infants, and Children program (WIC), which provides food aid to low income women and young children (up to age 5) who at risk for malnutrition.
Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) urged support for the bill: “The bill answers the call from Americans to reduce government spending while still providing for critical programs that keep American agriculture competitive in a global economy. The $125.5 billion in both discretionary and mandatory funding in this bill will help our rural communities to thrive, provide daily nutrition to children and families, and keep our food and drug supply safe. However, we can't spend at the rate we used to. We've hit the debt ceiling. We're borrowing more than 42 cents on every dollar we spend. We're mortgaging our children's futures. We have to rein in spending, even if it may not be the most popular thing to do.”
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) also supported the bill: “There are a lot of things in WIC we can do to improve to make sure that children don't fall through the cracks. Right now, for example, 49 percent of the kids in America participate in WIC. Do we really believe 49 percent are impoverished? Perhaps it's oversubscribed. Maybe we can work with the WIC folks on that…. Today, in America, a child under 5 years old is eligible for 12 federal programs. After that age, he or she is eligible for 9 Federal feeding programs. At 65, you're eligible for 5 different federal feeding programs. We want to make sure no one falls through the cracks and no one goes hungry, yet at the same time, is it possible that some folks are eligible for not just three meals a day but maybe four and five?”
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) opposed the bill, and criticized the Republican majority for cutting WIC funding: “This is a sacred portion of the budget to people on my side of the aisle, and it should be sacred to all people in America--newborn mothers, babies, and children under 5 who are identified as nutritionally at risk, and yet we are cutting that budget 13 percent….Economists estimate that for every $1 invested in WIC, there are savings between $1.50 and $3 in health care costs just in the first 60 days after an infant's birth. Talk about a return on investment….It's equivalent to kicking 475,000 eligible mothers, infants, and children off one of the most cost-effective programs in our country. It will cost Tennessee over $1 million. If we get rid of tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires for 1 week, we could pay for the entire WIC program for a year. I cannot see this. It seems to me it's distorted values, and I would ask that they reconsider and put the WIC program back to its basic level.’
Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) also opposed the agriculture bill: “What does this bill say of our values? It says that those children are of little value. Is that what this is about? Is it about those people around the world that are starving that will not have the Food for Peace program? Is that the value of this Congress, that we cannot find the money, in this wealthiest of all nations, to provide the health care for our young children and the food for those around the world?”
The House passed this agriculture bill by a vote of 217-203. Voting “yea” were 217 Republicans. All 184 Democrats present and 19 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House passed legislation providing annual funding for Agriculture Department programs, and cutting funding for nutritional assistance and food-aid programs.