With Republicans badly split over farm subsidies and cutting food stamps, House GOP leaders Tuesday decided to drop plans to extend the current farm program for one year and instead will press for immediate help for drought-stricken farmers.
The decision comes as Republicans feel pressure to do something for drought-hit farmers and ranchers before Congress begins its summer recess.
The party remains stymied by internal divisions between conservatives and farm-state lawmakers on how to proceed with a broader renewal of farm subsidies and the food stamp program, which have experienced rapid growth in recent years.
Republicans initially had announced plans to extend for one year the current farm and food programs, which expire on Sept. 30. But GOP leaders pulled that measure from Wednesday's floor schedule after Democrats announced opposition to the measure.
Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, the senior Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, opposes the idea, saying it would doom the chances of a five-year farm bill that would make dramatic changes to much-maligned farm subsidies.
Instead, GOP aides said, the House will take up a much smaller measure aimed at dealing with this summer's drought, the worst in about a half-century. The aides required anonymity because rank and file Republicans had not been briefed on the plans.
Details of the drought relief package were not immediately available.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., signaled that Democrats might be able to support the House GOP move.
"I think that what the House should do is take the provisions we have in our bill that we sent to them, and if they want to do something about drought relief, send that to us," Reid told reporters.
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