Embarrassing setback for House GOP leaders with Farm Bill defeat
June 20th, 2013
05:18 PM ET
10 months ago

Embarrassing setback for House GOP leaders with Farm Bill defeat

Washington (CNN) – In a surprising and embarrassing setback for House Republican leaders, legislation to overhaul the nation's farm programs failed in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives Thursday.

The bill was defeated by House conservatives who said the bill spent too much on food stamps and nutrition programs and House Democrats who opposed both the cuts to those food stamp programs and a GOP-backed amendment that added new work requirements for those applying for assistance.

The measure failed 195 – 234, with 62 Republicans joining 172 Democrats to oppose the bill, and just 24 Democrats voting with 171 Republicans to approve it.

House Speaker John Boehner, who for most of his congressional career has voted against farm bills, made a rare move last week and pledged that he would vote for this version. House speakers don't regularly vote on legislation so Boehner's announcement was an effort to get GOP members to go along with some reforms short of what they wanted in exchange for getting the farm bill through the House to the next step – a conference with the Senate on its version. Boehner made the case that doing nothing kept the same programs in place and the only way to ultimately reduce the size and scope of agriculture programs was to pass a House bill.

The rejection of the bill was a personal defeat for Boehner, and another example of how a sizeable block within the GOP conference has been willing to break with the speaker.

Ahead of the vote Thursday there was no sign that Republican leaders were worried the bill could fail. There was considerable pressure from outside conservative groups like the Club for Growth and Heritage Action to get GOP members to vote no, and several House Republican aides anticipated they would lose a bloc of votes from their own side. But GOP leaders felt comfortable that Minnesota Rep Collin Peterson, a moderate who is the top Democrat on the Agriculture Committee and who helped draft the bill, would help bring along as many as 40 votes to pass it. .

"The Democrats sandbagged us," one senior House GOP leadership aide told CNN after the vote.

GOP leaders were clearly stunned as the time expired on the vote clock inside the House chamber and it became clear that the measure was about to fail. House members stood on the floor silently looking up at the vote board and the vote time was extended for several minutes as GOP leaders consulted with Peterson and others to see whether it was possible to flip enough votes to get the bill through.

When the gavel came down with the unexpected result the blame game went into high gear.

Peterson told reporters outside the House chamber that a chunk of Democratic support peeled off after passage of a GOP amendment adding work requirements for food stamp recipients. He said he warned Republican Chairman of the Agriculture Committee, Rep Frank Lucas, R-Oklahoma, and House GOP Leader Eric Cantor that allowing a vote on that change would put the bill's passage in question.

"I told them in the last two days not to accept that amendment," Peterson said. He also said a change to the bill providing new subsidies for dairy farmers also cost some Democratic votes.

Rory Cooper, spokesman for House Majority Leader Cantor, disputed Peterson's account, saying that "there were no surprises today" and that Democrats knew those changes were expected to be added to the bill. Cooper also said Peterson assured leaders he had significantly more Democratic votes than he delivered.

Cantor released a statement saying House Democrats "shamefully chose politics over progress and meaningful reform."

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi mocked the Republicans' charge that Democrats pulled the rug out at the last minute, telling reporters, "If we ever came to you when we had the majority and said we didn't pass a bill because we didn't get enough Republican votes, well that's really silly. It's sad, it's juvenile, it's unprofessional, it's amateur hour."

Peterson said he was willing to work with Republicans to salvage the bill, but said he expected the failed effort would mean Congress would end up having to pass another temporary extension of the current farm policy laws. This was the second time House Republican leaders could not get a farm bill package through the House. Last summer they postponed a similar vote because they didn't have enough support to pass it.

"If you overreach you get nothing and that is what we've been trying to tell people " Peterson said, adding, "If you take things too far than sometimes it blows up on you."

Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, called on Boehner to bring up the Senate passed farm bill. "Maintaining the status quo means no reform, no deficit reduction, and further uncertainty that slows growth in our agriculture industry. This is totally unacceptable."

Conservative groups opposed to federal farm policy claimed victory and said the vote gives new momentum to do away with many of the current programs.

"The time for reform is now. We need to put farm subsidies on a path to elimination and we need to devolve food stamps to the state level where they belong. With $17 trillion in debt, the American taxpayers don't have time to wait," Club for Growth President Chris Chocola said in a written statement.

House Republican leaders were still considering next steps, and while it's doubtful they would allow a vote on the Senate bill, it's unclear whether they will attempt to revive the House measure.


Filed under: Congress • House Republicans
soundoff (139 Responses)
  1. Bill

    Everything about the House GOP is embarrassing. This should be no surprise. These clowns will be removed in 2014.

    June 20, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  2. Derek

    Wow, I'm surprised they are even trying to pass anything. I thought we're in a holding pattern until January 2015?

    June 20, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  3. don in albuquerque

    Wow, Monsanto must not have made their payoffs this month.

    June 20, 2013 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  4. Marie MD

    I agree with with @Bill. The rethugs are an embarrassment not just to the US but as "human beings" in general.
    They can't even agree on those JOBS,JOBS, JOBS then ran on in 2010!!!

    June 20, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  5. 2012liberal

    I want 2 know who the 24 idiot dems r that voted 4 this? And lets hope this is a sign 4 moderate rethugs 2 reel its party back n.

    June 20, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    "We need to put farm subsidies on a path to elimination and we need to devolve food stamps to the state level where they belong."

    Translation: "We need to put farm subsidies on a path to elimination and we need to devolve food stamps to the state level where the red states can just get rid of them in hopes that minorities move to blue states.'

    June 20, 2013 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  7. 2012liberal

    I'm all 4 ending farm subsidies 4 corps and ppl like the bachmanns with their hands n the cookie jar. I'm all 4 ending subsidies period! Big oil anyone?

    June 20, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  8. Brian

    @ 2012. Some of them are rural farm districts. They need the bill for their districts no matter the cost to others.

    June 20, 2013 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  9. Randy, San Francisco

    Don't blame Democrats when Speaker Bohener cannot control Tea Party and conservative purists in his own caucus.

    June 20, 2013 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  10. Pete

    So the democrates sandbagged republicans,too bad ,so sad...Nice to see another part of the republican party collapsing and their speaker in Boehner showing again he's nothing more than a straw politician with no following anymore,he's through in congress and he knows it!!Now onward midterms and after that hopefully reps will learn from their past and start listening to their constituents who put them there not the corporate lobbyist that fill their pockets...Remember corporations aren't people and don't wield enough votes to put any rep anywhere ,just not strong enough in numbers people wise for votes that's all!!

    June 20, 2013 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  11. Tea Party Thomas

    I against welfare in all forms and that includes welfare for corporate farms and ranches.

    June 20, 2013 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  12. Maria Rivera-Carvalho

    How idelogically weak can the Republicans be that their blind hatred for a man is destroying their entire institution? Like of dislike him President Obama will go down in history as the David that destroyed the Goliah of an entire national institution by driving them to ideological and politcal suicide. And, like David, he will be praised by posterity.

    June 20, 2013 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  13. cm

    "Conservative groups opposed to federal farm policy claimed victory and said the vote gives new momentum to do away with many of the current program"

    Seriously, how delusional are these people? Whether you agree with the bill/policy or not, you seriously can't believe this is some sort of overwhelming show that most of America agrees with you?

    June 20, 2013 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  14. sonkarlay

    He is not a leader,

    June 20, 2013 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    They are an embarrassment to the USA.

    June 20, 2013 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  16. Namevjones

    Im not shocked at all I have been out of work since oct 2012 still looking just to have $50 worth of stamps will help me out they cut my unemployment check since the sequester is congress paychecks cut do they have health insurance I'm sick of politians telling me telly know how I feel I would for all of congress to live how we reg people live and get those old ass men over 65 get out mcconnell mccain john b eric cantor will the worse house speaker paying taxes for nothing

    June 20, 2013 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  17. Enoch

    One of many embarrassing moments, in the history of the biggest do nothing congress, since the beginning of time eternal.

    June 20, 2013 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  18. Namevjones

    its sad this congress sucks its all about there districts no need for food stamps in that district oh my and the abortion bill and health care let it go its law JOBS should be the focus congress get paid for doing nothing I'm so piss right now because I'm looking for a job everyday but my edd check is cut because u hate the prez its not about congress its the american people that's paying yr salary insurance for u and yr family yr travel u can vote and yr selves raises what about us

    June 20, 2013 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  19. Dave

    Stop corporate welfare.

    June 20, 2013 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  20. Dynahog

    There is no money. The USA is broke. Therefore, NO MORE HANDOUTS.

    June 20, 2013 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  21. shawn

    cut the food stamp program in half!!

    June 20, 2013 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  22. Ord_Miller

    While farm welfare payments may be as irksome as any other, you have to wonder why con-servatives would want to take 20.5 bn. out of American agriculture over the next decade.
    In their hubris since they have gone from dust to dynamo in a single generation, using the American factories our CEOs and leveraged buyout thugs tore down here and shipped there, Communist China has said that in the future America will be their breadbasket, Europe their boutique. Looks like those con-servatives in Congress like what China has to say.

    June 20, 2013 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  23. Dan

    Work requirement for food stamps? Do not starve anyone just to spite them; especially if there are children. Also quit invoking my religious beliefs just to get my vote. Your political agenda does not follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and it is a shame that you can sink that low.

    June 20, 2013 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  24. just me

    Even if the other 16 dem votes had been delivered the bill still would've been defeated. This is all on the repubs. The inmates are runnin the asylum and like the lady said, it's amatuer hour.

    June 20, 2013 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  25. liz

    yup, let's not cut food stamp aide – what with all the illegals being granted amnesty, we will need to ensure all entitlements are in place. thank you POTUS. I'd like to see a survey done on how many legal American citizens are receiving aide vs illegals who are entitled just because they were smart enough to have babies here.

    June 20, 2013 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
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