The Senate emphatically approved the farm bill conference report today, sending the $289 billion, five-year measure to the White House with a strong veto-proof margin.

The Senate’s 81-15 vote puts the long-delayed bill in the homestretch to final passage. It follows the overwhelming approval given to it in the House yesterday, where lawmakers approved the bill by a 3-to-1 margin, 318-106.

President Bush has vowed to veto the bill, based on his opposition to its crop subsidies, spending levels and sugar support program.
But wide-ranging support from both the House and Senate indicates lawmakers are likely to outmaneuver the White House.

Republicans streamed to the Senate floor this morning to speak in favor of the bill, most of them saying they would vote to override a veto. “Certainly, if it is necessary, I will stand and vote to overturn that veto,” Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said.

Farm-state lawmakers were able to win wide support with a coalition of members who supported the bill for different reasons. Urban lawmakers who opposed its crop supports were won over by increases for food stamps and nutrition programs. Others signed on for special programs that would benefit their districts. Beyond its standard farm and food programs, the bill includes an array of tax benefits and other perks, including tax breaks for timber companies, cellulosic ethanol blenders and voluntary endangered species conservation.

The conference report would increase spending for conservation programs by $4 billion and gives more than $10 billion extra to nutrition programs, like food stamps and food banks.