Senate defeats proposal to trim food stamp program

By JIM ABRAMS | June 19, 2012 | 4:25 PM EDT

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., center, speaks to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington Tuesday, June 19, 2012. Others are Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, right, and John Barrasso, R-Wyo. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has started plowing through 73 amendments to a $500 billion bill that will set farm policy and fund the food stamp program over the next five years.

One of the first votes Tuesday was to defeat an amendment by Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama that would have saved $11 billion over a decade by tightening food stamp eligibility requirements.

The farm bill carries out major changes to the federal safety net for farmers. But 80 percent of the spending in the bill — or $80 billion a year — goes to the food stamp program, which covers 46 million people.

The Senate is expected to pass the bill by week's end. It then goes to the House, where it could run into trouble from fiscal conservatives.