- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 17, 2002

House and Senate negotiators still don't have agreement on President Bush's proposal to extend food stamps to green card holders, which is one of the sticking points to approval of the farm bill.
Last week House Republicans in the conference committee rejected the president's plan, which would have restored food stamp benefits to legal immigrants who were cut out of the program in 1996.
In return, senators rejected a House proposal to expand food stamps to children and the disabled and put strict limits on those legal immigrants who were eligible for food stamps.
Yesterday, House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican, said the issue has to be resolved for there to be agreement.
"If you're serious about trying to reauthorize the farm bill, then you've got to come to some agreement that is passable in both houses," he said.
Food stamps are one of a series of unresolved issues in the conference. Conference members yesterday said they are close to an agreement.
"Before we weren't in the same universe. Now we're in the same solar system," said Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat and chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
The food stamp vote has the potential to embarrass Mr. Bush, whose administration has sought to reach out to Hispanic voters.
Hispanic activists said they view the food stamp issue as a test of the president's commitment to voter outreach and want to see him persuade his fellow Republicans to accept the proposal.
"He talks about inclusion. He could take the lead, pick up that phone, take the leadership," said Rep. Joe Baca, California Democrat. "But what is he doing? He wants us to go there and take photos with him, but yet he's not willing to do what needs to be done for us."
Mr. Baca joined other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus yesterday to call for the president to do more lobbying for the food stamp proposal.
The underlying farm bill reauthorizes the government's farm subsidies and loan programs for the next decade. Members from both parties would like to have the bill in hand soon, since the planting season is starting.
The president's food stamp proposal would undo a change in the 1996 welfare system overhaul, which cut off welfare to green card holders lawful residents who have immigrated to the United States but have not applied for citizenship.
The president's proposal would restore benefits to more than 350,000 people, at a cost of more than $2 billion over the next decade.
"The president believes we ought to help people who are in this country legally and do so in a way that does not encourage more people to come to this country seeking welfare," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan yesterday.
Conference members and their aides said there are potential compromises on the food stamp issue, but they wouldn't talk about individual pieces of the bill.
"Nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to," said Sen. Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat.
Food stamps are just the latest of the president's Hispanic outreach proposals to be held up in Congress.
He had hoped to have Congress pass his limited-amnesty proposal, which would allow those who are in the United States illegally to pay a fine and gain legal status, in time for his visit to Mexico last month.
The House passed the provision, known as 245(i), the section of immigration law that includes the amnesty proposal, as part of the border-security bill. But senators say they will pass just the border-security provisions this week, and then revisit the amnesty issue later.
"While an agreement was worked out to bring up the border security bill without those provisions, a commitment was also made that the 245(i) measure would be brought up free-standing by Senator Daschle. So I assume that sometime in the next month that will occur," said Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican.
Mr. Lott said there are 70 to 80 senators who support the provision, but like the food stamp proposal, Senate Democrats are looking for more than what House Republicans have passed.

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