The Senate overwhelmingly passed its version of the farm bill last week, with about $2.4 billion a year in overall cuts and a $400 million annual decrease in food stamps — one-fifth of the House bill's food stamp cuts. The White House was supportive of the Senate version but had issued a veto threat of the House bill.
If the two chambers cannot come together on a bill, farm-state lawmakers could push for an extension of the 2008 farm bill that expires in September or negotiate a new bill with the Senate and try again.
Some conservatives have suggested separating the farm programs and the food stamps into separate bills. Farm-state lawmakers have for decades added food stamps to farm bills to garner urban votes for the rural bill. But that marriage has made passage harder this year.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said Thursday that the committee is assessing all its options and will continue its work in the "near future."
Just before the vote, Lucas pleaded with his colleagues' support, saying that if the measure didn't pass people would use it as an example of a dysfunctional Congress.
"If it fails today I can't guarantee you'll see in this Congress another attempt," he said.
Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, the senior Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, said he believes the work requirements and a vote that scuttled a proposed dairy overhaul turned too many lawmakers against the measure.
"I had a bunch of people come up to me and say I was with you but this is it, I'm done," Peterson said after the vote.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, voted for the bill but lobbied for the dairy amendment that caused some dairy-state lawmakers to eventually turn on the legislation. Cantor vocally supported the amendment that imposed the work requirements, coming to the House floor just before that vote and the final vote to endorse it.