Senate votes down proposal to end tobacco crop insurance subsidy

The U.S. Senate voted 52-44 Thursday afternoon to kill an amendment to the Farm Bill that would have eliminated federal crop insurance subsidies for tobacco.

"This is a big victory for Kentucky's tobacco growers and their families. I was happy to lead the fight to protect our farmers from another assault by Washington to go after our home state jobs," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Louisville, in a statement afterward.

Both McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, voted against the amendment.

Kentucky burley growers lobbied against the cut.

The amendment was introduced by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who said it could have put $333 million in savings over the next 10 years toward the federal debt. "Should taxpayers continue to subsidize tobacco? I think the answer is no," Feinstein said before the vote. "We have to say no to tobacco in America."

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., suggested before the vote that if Feinstein wanted to fight tobacco use, she should offer an amendment to make tobacco illegal rather than block federal crop insurance for farmers.

"The only thing this agricultural commodity asks is let us participate in the federal crop insurance program," Burr said ahead of the vote. "Don't do this to a piece of the agriculture community ... that contributes a lot to this country."