Discussion continued on the Senate floor Tuesday as a sparse crowd on the floor addressed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a conservation amendment for Indian tribes and the sugar program.
Senators came away from Tuesday's debate with a final answer on the SNAP discussion. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Pat Roberts, R-Kan., each presented dueling amendments to the Farm Bill regarding the program.
Roberts' amendment, which would have eliminated loopholes created by making families automatically eligible for food stamp benefits through home heating assistance, failed 40-58.
Senators debated sugar policy and voted on controversial SNAP amendments Tuesday
"We can restore integrity to the SNAP program while providing benefits to those truly in need – and save an additional $30 billion dollars," Roberts said. "I am not proposing a dramatic change in the policy of nutrition programs. Instead this amendment reinforces the principles of good government."
The amendment would have also done away with SNAP employment and training program as well as the SNAP nutritional education grant program, which Roberts said don't represent any direct food benefits.
Roberts' amendment would have also limited funds used by the USDA to award state agencies for "basically doing their job," Roberts explained, including monetary awards for signing SNAP participants up for the program.
Conversely, Gillibrand's amendment would have done nearly the opposite – reinstate the $4 billion in SNAP cuts proposed in the Farm Bill and limit some crop insurance funding.
Gillibrand said the cuts to SNAP go against a "core value of who we are as Americans."
"Clearly, we have to reduce the debt and the deficit but hardworking parents … are just trying to put food on the table. They did not spend this nation into debt and we should not be trying to balance the budget on their backs," Gillibrand said.
The Gillibrand amendment, however, was not agreed to by a vote of 26-70.
Senators also debated the sugar program ahead of the introduction of an amendment from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., to roll back subsidies for sugar producers.
North Dakota Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and John Hoeven each defended the sugar program, noting that nearly all countries subsidize their sugar programs.
"For 10 years now sugar policy has operated at zero cost to the American taxpayer because our farmers are efficient and they are competitive. And because American sugar policy has always made sure they are on a level playing field," Hoeven said.