Embarrassing setback for House GOP leaders with Farm Bill defeat
June 20th, 2013
05:18 PM ET
1 year 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. uche agonsi

    If theres anything that the House has achieved for the past 30 months now, is Congressional gridlocks, & spending money & time investigating manufactured allegations against Obama. The strong demand by Americans for more improvements in the economy generally has continuously fallen on their deaf ears. The improvements on the economy so far are those instituted by Obama before the mid term election. To these Repubs to destroy Obama comes first to save American people. If reciprocal actions are inflicted by all opposing parties against an incumbent regime, then where lies governance.

    June 21, 2013 05:28 am at 5:28 am |
  2. W.G.

    Republicans are so divided and dragging the country down with them . Would you people stop voting
    for the incompitant far right .

    June 21, 2013 05:31 am at 5:31 am |
  3. M.A.P.

    Haha they have majority in the house and they can't even pass their own bills? Man the republican party is totally divided and terribly organized. Then blaming dems when YOU HAVE MAJORITY!? simply pathetic. Get rid or them!

    June 21, 2013 06:01 am at 6:01 am |
  4. AnnonUSA

    Nancy Pelosi should never ever be allowed to comment on anything. Her defining comment of all time should forever be the "Let's pass the bill and read it later" comment made on the Obamacare act. Seeing her name on anything now just is a discredit to the bill.

    June 21, 2013 06:54 am at 6:54 am |
  5. The fact of the matter

    "... opposed both the cuts to those food stamp programs and a GOP-backed amendment that added new work requirements for those applying for assistance." As is usually the case, the Democrats defeat a bill because of the wrong reasons.

    June 21, 2013 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  6. Anonymous

    So several democrats stepped back from the bill after a work requirement was added. I guess Democrats still feel everyone should get a free ride at taxpayers expense. Why not the Democrats have been getting a free ride from the tax payers for years, by doing nothing. Do nothing Democrats that is why this country is going down the drain. Its time to sweep Democrats out of office. Bring in the Republicans so something can get done.

    June 21, 2013 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  7. Minnie Mouse

    The food stamp "Snap" program does need to be reformed and it has been needing reformed for years. It's the benefit amounts and what they money is spent on, who gets benefits, and the length of time people recieve benefits. We should not be paying for fast foods, junk foods and junk drinks. These are all extras, when you want more in life than what you need this is when need to get a job!! No one should ever have a balance on his or her debit snap card that is larger than the monthly benefit amount at any given time.Your allowing for families to stack and stack months of unspent benefits to be saved and spent before they are married ect..just before they are booted out of the program for making to much income. (examples) You give someone $500 a month and they only spend $200, then the $300 is rolled over into the next month and all they get is $200 more dollars added to the next month. Anyone who spends $200(or any amount) on fast foods, junk foods, junk drinks then the amount is deducted from the next months benefit amounts. If your benefit amount is $900 then the following month all you get is $700 because you spent $200 on junk in the previous month. This is how you save money on wastefull spending and tax payers and the government needs to stop paying for it all! People can pay for his or her own fast foods, junk foods and junk drinks. I feed a family of 3 and 2 pets on $75 a wk, and we are not starving and never run out of food. It's called cooking, planning, budgeting and when you go out to eat it's a treat not a necessity to live.

    June 21, 2013 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  8. sonkarlay

    What's new here, at least nancy pelosi pass bills but since republican toke over the house not a damn bills ever came out, what a bunch of looser, only tax cut bills, ban on abortion, repeal heath care and anything that will hurts the american ppl are the only bills that come from the republican house, what a shame for this great nation

    June 21, 2013 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  9. Data Driven

    Ah man, this story was like cake and ice cream to me. Absolute classic!

    And yet a serious question emerges: does anyone still think Boehner can discipline these folks into voting for an immigration bill?

    More cake and ice cream to follow!

    June 21, 2013 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  10. Wake up People!

    Food stamp benefits aren't all that much as it is now and they want to cut them even more? I fear some of those same fetuses they are always trying to save are going to starve to death if it's up to the GOP. Yes, I believe in personal responsibility but with wages as low as they are, some people still need help just to eat everyday.

    Nothing but a bunch of heartless fatcats.

    June 21, 2013 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  11. WrongWay

    I have come to the conclusion that the only way to re-establish a functional and legitimate government for the US is by eliminating/reducing it into oblivion. Smaller and smaller and smaller government is the only way to reign in the constant over reach and missapropriated use of our tax dollars. We cannot regain control of those elected until we reduce them to a managable size. Granted, this consolidates power to fewer people but it also focuses the spotlight on them alone and not the thousands of lackeys they employ. It might not be the best way to resolve this but it appears to be the only way amongst the two parties.

    June 21, 2013 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  12. Name

    Hey CNN, heaven forbid you report the story without the "everybody hate the right" angle. You are becoming a real sorry excuse for journalists.

    June 21, 2013 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  13. Padric2

    Why do people on a FARM need food stamps!? It's a place to GROW FOOD!

    June 21, 2013 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  14. plain&simple

    Why have a speaker of the house....who is he speaking for? Between Eric Cantor and the man from Ohio nowadays referred to as tweedle Dee and tweedle dumb....I don't know which one is worse!!! It has become clear there are now three parties in congress!!!

    June 21, 2013 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  15. Norma Vessels

    It's amazing .. it's not that often that the House brings up a Bill that will supposedly help some Americans, and when they do, the Bill only turns out to make things worse for other Americans. They will never bring up, or even pass a Bill that will actually help some Americans and not hurt others in the process. It's called, "getting back what's mine."

    June 21, 2013 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  16. plain&simple

    Is this how our country would look under the " leadership" of republicans??? NO THANKS!!!

    June 21, 2013 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  17. Chris

    Does anyone remember that during the 2008 – 2010, when Democrats had the House, one point that the GOP hammered at again and again was Congress' low approval ratings – in the 30's. The Republicans pointed to approval numbers and said here was undeniable proof of what a bad job the Democrats were doing and how disconnected they were from the American people.

    But ever since the Republicans have taken over the House in 2010, the approval ratings have plummeted to record lows. The polling in the single digits. And they list of accomplishments for a year only include naming a post office, declaring pizza a "vegetable" and getting the country's credit rating downgraded.

    June 21, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  18. jim

    No suprise here. What have they actully passed in the past 5+ years? Oh that's right there pay raise.

    June 21, 2013 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  19. iceload9

    "opposed both the cuts to those food stamp programs and a GOP-backed amendment that added new work requirements for those applying for assistance" Was there anything about farms in this? There no definition between family farms and corporate farming, same as no definition between small business and the fortune 500. We could pass realistic laws but not with this group. They simply don't trust each other enough to leave the room to go to the bathroom.

    June 21, 2013 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  20. Rudy NYC

    The real problem with the bill is that it cuts $20 billion from SNAP, formerly known as food stamps. As for the work requirements for welfare, that's a long story and the Republican position is weird.

    Remember when Republicans had accused Pres. Obama of removing work requirements from welfare? In truth, he was letting states decide the work requirements, instead of having the federal government do it for them. Since states know their particular needs better than DC, it makes since to let states determine what is best for themselves. It does not remove the requirement, but states have to define their own set of standards.

    Republicans are taking that right away from the states, in response to their accusation that Pres. Obama was removing the work requirement for welfare. I am shocked, puzzled, and confused to see Republicans voting to take away a right from individual states. It's why so many people voted against it.

    June 21, 2013 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  21. olepi

    The Farm Bill, proposed and pushed by the GOP, has been voted down, by the GOP.

    This is the House's equivalent of the GOP Senate filibustering its own bill.

    BWAHAHAHA!

    June 21, 2013 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  22. Ted

    You realize that the bill would actually DO some cutbacks, as opposed to it failing and just passing a continuation of the previous versions. If anyone had actually READ anything besides the short synopsis above, you would realize how much wasted $$$ in subsidy there is in the Farm bill. It has morphed over time to become a complete boondoggle that is perpetuated because we had the money and zero political spine to prevent its waste. Since we don't have the money anymore, maybe we will grow some spine. People may hope that, because this version failed, that we can shave off programs and save fiscally. So the question is – will Congress do that, or just pass a continuance of the last bill and move onto other things. What do you think?

    June 21, 2013 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  23. Bessy

    @ Minnie Mouse
    I agree with a lot of what you say, however your figures are way high. I had a friend who's husband was dying of cancer and when she asked for assistance they offered her $16 a month. Can't do much with that at today's prices. Also, you have to be a very special type of person if you can manage a family of 3 and 2 pets on $75 a wk. I really have to question that.

    June 21, 2013 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  24. demogoat

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

    June 21, 2013 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  25. Rosslaw

    House republican leaders cannot be embarrassed, especially when as with Tan Man their complete incompetence and lack of leadership abilities is put on full display. And for Tan Man and the neanderthals to blame the Dems for not going along with the right's war on feeding children program-priceless. But more to the point, why is Tan Man's utter inability to even pretend to actually lead his party over the teatards' objections even news at this point.

    June 21, 2013 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
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