Partisan acrimony over the farm bill increased Monday as a senior House Democrat chastised 14 House Republicans for voting for their chamber's latest version while collecting millions of dollars in agriculture subsidies.
Rep. George Miller of California, the top Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, called the GOP action an "outrageous" example of congressional conflict of interest — a scenario he said was made worse because the Republicans supported a farm bill that was stripped of food stamp funding.
"It's bad enough that the House of Representatives didn't pass a farm bill that included authorization for sorely needed nutrition programs, but to see members of Congress approving their own benefits at the expense of the working poor is a new low, even for this Congress," Miller said.
The Democrat said public records show the 14 lawmakers earned more than $7.2 million in government farm handouts, an average of $515,279 per lawmaker.
Miller singled out Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., who — with an estimated net worth of up to $5.6 million — accepted at least $1.7 million in agricultural subsidies while voting for the farm bill.
LaMalfa spokesman Kevin Eastman pushed back at the accusations, saying the the freshman Republican, a rice farmer from rural northern California, repeatedly has voted to eliminate farm subsidies he believes are outdated and counterproductive.
"This is Mr. Miller using hyperbole to paint Republicans in a poor light because Mr. Miller is an advocate of higher food stamp spending," Eastman said.
While Eastman didn't dispute that LaMalfa has received about $1.7 million in subsidies, he said the aid — which is available to other farmers — is crucial to stay competitive.
The House on July 11 passed a Republican-crafted farm bill that for the first time since the 1970s doesn't include funding for food stamps. The measure, which was approved largely along partisan lines, is at odds with a Senate version that includes the food stamp provision.
House and Senate negotiators are expected to hammer out a compromise bill in the coming days or weeks, while the food stamp issue will be dealt with separately.