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. Hey

    amazing cnn bias they love to leave the comment section open for republican stories but closed for democrat stories nice cnn communist news network

    June 20, 2013 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  2. wildernessyes

    The republican party and the republican controlled house is so very bad for America. They do nothing and hurt our great nation in so many ways.

    Can't wait for 2014 and 2016. Lets give these republicans their walking papers and get on with building America's future.

    June 20, 2013 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  3. Southernsuga

    I listened to Grassley and Sessions debate this bill in the Senate. The argument was over Northern farms, versus, Southern farms, and why the South did not need the money the mid-west farmers needed. It was ridiculous.

    I'm not a farmer, but it was all about politics.

    June 20, 2013 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  4. ned

    Where are the JOB???? We haven't heard ANYTHING about JOBS!!! How pathetic. Please, we must replace these anti-abortion clowns in 2014-16.

    June 20, 2013 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  5. yogi

    The Republicans way of governing in the House is saying NO to whatever it is that comes their way, they will either obstruct or delay it, or add so many amendments to the legislation that it becomes impossible to pass. Their promises of "jobs!" in 2010 are nothing but echoes, what a completely incompetent bunch of clowns. Vote them all out of office at every opportunity.

    June 20, 2013 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  6. jan

    this entire government is a joke, and that includes the Mesiah,

    June 20, 2013 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  7. Jinx9to88

    Take 100 million out of the defense budget that is already busting out the seams. Problem solved. This is way to easy!!!

    June 20, 2013 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  8. Jersey Girl

    I like how Can't Cantor tried to blame the Dems for the Repubs not being able to pass this bill, but there were 62 Repubs that didn't vote for it, so obviously it is on their shoulders. And I like how Steny Hoyer put him in his place. I see the Repubs not getting the White House back for a loooong time!

    June 20, 2013 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  9. citizen1950

    Agriculture. Food stamps? Why are these connected in the same bill? Seems like putting these together is a recipe for disaster. Also, I thought this nation was trying to reduce or eliminate farm subsidies?

    June 20, 2013 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  10. S.B. Stein

    They need to have this cleaner. Cutting the SNAP amount is wrong because there are many people need this to survive. I don't understand why they would let people starve?

    June 20, 2013 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  11. roccoenzo

    Dysfunction at its best.

    June 20, 2013 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  12. paofpa

    Call this a victory. Not for the farm bill, I could care less or vote with the GOP. The victory is that a high number of congressmen voting out of party. I hope this keeps up, it will force them to work.

    June 20, 2013 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  13. Jack

    The Tea Party Republicans are an embarrassment to this country!

    June 20, 2013 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  14. Greenspam

    Farm bill is just govt handouts! How come red states love socialism?

    June 20, 2013 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  15. GAdem2013

    The SNAP program already has general work requirements for able bodied persons between 16-60 years of age. If you don't have a job, are not involved in a work training program and are able bodied, you can qualify for SNAP benefits only for up to 3 months. So here we have yet another example of House Republicans trying to push through legislation that targets the poor, in order to save a few dollars (and screw over a lot of people).

    June 21, 2013 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  16. tax payer

    why is this congress wanting to cut out help for the poor americans, we send $200 billion to other countries ever year, why not cut out that $200 billion & give that to Americas poor, take care of americans, only.

    June 21, 2013 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  17. John/kc

    Cutting the farm programs will not go over well in those red states that have mostly farmers. Vote for more republicans!

    June 21, 2013 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  18. shelby

    GOP are not getting the job done.

    June 21, 2013 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  19. Claude Slagenhop

    The farm bill is a welfare bill: It props up corporate farms and subsidizes poison that makes Americans fat and stupid. It is mostly food-stamp payments to make people fat, lazy and dependent.

    June 21, 2013 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  20. glennrobert

    The Reps. blame The Dems. for what the are doing to themselves!

    June 21, 2013 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  21. art

    LMFAO. The Republicans are so full of themselves that they believe Democrats should catow tot hem...MOVE over GOPTP, your time is coming to a close. The GOPTP will be effectively remove from Public discourse for the next 5 decades...YES, 50+ years!

    June 21, 2013 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  22. Beefburger

    At the parks they say "DO NOT FEED THE BEARS" as they grow lazy and dependent on handouts..... Just sayin'.

    June 21, 2013 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
  23. NorCalMojo

    It's about time they started fighting back. 2010 wasn't about bringing in more GOP machine candidates, it was about change. The tea party candidates need to start flexing their muscles more. They allowed a machine candidate in 2012 and got spanked for it. That's the future of the GOP if Boehner and McCain are left in charge.

    June 21, 2013 01:55 am at 1:55 am |
  24. Hillcrester

    Boehner is a Potemkin Speaker with little credibility in his own caucus. He is increasingly ineffective.

    June 21, 2013 02:38 am at 2:38 am |
  25. Corncop

    The GOP led House is an embarrassment, period! Especially it's baby-faced, teary-eyed Speaker. About the only things they can do successfully is pass Senate DOA abortion bills and posture for the evening news cameras. Oh, wait–one more thing! They do well lining their own pockets with special interest money for the next election cycle! Although I I do not agree with the Democrats on many things, the Repubs have proven that they cannot lead! The past has shown that they cannot follow, so maybe they should just get out of the way!

    June 21, 2013 05:09 am at 5:09 am |
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