Debt & Taxes
Food Stamp Costs Could Scuttle $955 B Senate Farm Bill
Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - 12:04pm
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The Senate on Monday evening voted 66 to 27 to approve a $955 billion farm bill that would cut $24 billion from farm spending over the coming decade, including a $4 billion reduction to food stamps.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s in the bill (spending is over a 10-year period):
 
• $760.5 billion for food stamps. The majority of this spending goes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a food subsidy program for low-income Americans.
• $89 billion for crop insurance.
• $58 billion for nature conservation.
• $ 41.3 billion for programs that protect against swings in commodity prices
• $3.6 billion to promote international trade.
• $1.1 billion for biofuels and energy efficient programs.
• $1.1 billion for  rural development to research and development, promoting farmers markets, selling off timber on federal lands, and research into organic agriculture and citrus diseases.

The House, meanwhile, is working on a rival bill that costs $940 billion over 10 years and cuts spending by $39.7 billion, with a $20.5 billion cut to food stamps. Despite strong Democratic opposition, the House is expected to vote on the bill later this month. With the current farm bill expiring Sept. 30, lawmakers are aiming to reach an agreement before August recess. -  Read more at The Washington Post

JACK LEW DIGS IN FOR DEBT CEILING FIGHT    Treasury Secretary Jack Lew met privately with members of the Senate Finance Committee last week, telling them that the White House would not consider attaching tax reform to an increase in the debt ceiling. Fox’s Rich Edson writes, “The position surprised some who thought Lew and other administration officials would begin private discussions to negotiate an increase in the debt ceiling. Instead, Lew underscored the administration's public position that Congress must increase the nation's borrowing limit with no other policies attached." Read more at Fox Business

SENATE TO TAKE UP IMMIGRATION REFORM    The Senate will vote today to begin debate on immigration reform legislation. The bill, crafted by the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” senators, creates a 13-year path to citizenship for most of the country's 11 million undocumented immigrants. Illegal immigrants without a criminal record who get a job would be granted legal status, but they would have to wait up to 10 years to receive U.S. citizenship. Many Republicans say the border security aspect of the bill is not strong enough and that it would never be implemented. Senate aides told CBS they believe there are 60 votes to begin the debate.  -  Read more at CBS

CFPB TARGETS BANK OVERDRAFT FEES "U.S. regulators are stepping up scrutiny of overdraft fees charged by banks, a big revenue stream that is helping the industry lessen the hit caused by low interest rates and the sluggish economy. The [CFPB] ... in a report set for release [today] plans to criticize the U.S. banking industry for practices that it says range from confusing rules on overdraft fees to increasing the likelihood of multiple fees being charged to the same customer,” The Wall Street Journal’s Shayndi Raice and Alan Zibel report. “The agency ... said it has no immediate plans to issue or recommend new overdraft-fee rules. But the report is the strongest signal yet that the CFPB is burrowing into the controversial fees, which generated about $32 billion in revenue in the U.S. last year, according to research firm Moebs Services Inc." -  Read more at The Wall Street Journal

DROUGHT THREATENS BILLION DOLLAR GREAT LAKES INDUSTRY   Last year’s drought caused water levels in the Great Lakes to reach a record low, putting the $34 billion shipping industry in peril and potentially sending ripples throughout the economy. Industry experts say the impact over time could result in an increase in the cost of commodities and manufacturing goods, which could potentially lead to higher prices for consumers. Read more at The New York Times

PEW: AMERICANS POLITICALLY DIVIDED ON NSA SPY PROGRAM     The majority of Americans don’t mind if their government is spying on them ---as long as they support whoever is living in the White House. A new Pew Research Center poll shows 56 percent of Americans’ say it is acceptable for the National Security Agency to monitor Americans’ calls and Internet activity in order to investigate terrorist threats, while 41 percent deem it unacceptable. But the poll also finds that the support largely falls along party lines.
 
Under President Obama, 64 percent of Democrats are OK with being monitored by the NSA, compared to 52 percent of Republicans. Compare that to a similar poll taken in 2006 showed 75 percent of Republicans supported the government’s surveillance programs, while just 37 percent of Democrats did. -  See the poll here

Five reasons not to worry about the NSA’s spy program…and two reasons to worry

Washington Correspondent Brianna Ehley, based in D.C., covers Congress, government agencies and spending issues, health care, and tax and economic policy for The Fiscal Times.