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Senate passes veto-proof farm bill

Congress poised to override President Bush for only the second time.

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With only 15 dissenting votes, the Senate passed a $307 billion five-year farm bill that President Bush says he will veto.

But with 81 senators supporting it and Wednesday's 318-106 vote for the final version of the bill, Congress has more than the two-thirds majority to override that veto. If the president vetoes the bill, as expected, it would be only the second override of the Bush presidency. Last December, Congress voted to override a presidential veto of a $23 billion water-projects bill.

In the Senate, many Republicans said they had to part ways with the president.

"I'm disgusted with aspects of this bill, but I had no choice. North Carolina is the third largest agricultural state in the country," said Sen. Richard Burr (R) of North Carolina after the vote.

The omnibus bill, dubbed the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act, covers a vast range of federal agricultural policy, including farm support, trade policy, marketing, nutritional programs, and rural development. At a time when food prices are soaring, the prospect of billions in subsidies to farmers could have been a tough sell. But anticipating a fight, supporters made several key moves to bolster passage of the huge bill.

They cut traditional crop insurance programs by $3.8 billion and increased spending on nutrition ($10.3 billion), conservation ($2.7 billion), and energy programs ($600 million). The bill increases the minimum monthly benefit for food stamps and indexes household asset limits, lifts the cap on child care deductibility. Nearly two-thirds of all spending in the new bill is for nutrition programs.

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