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. maximusvad

    The GOP couldn't pass gas even if they ate a pound of beans.

    June 21, 2013 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  2. Craig in Pa.

    And so the Republican Party sinks deeper into the abyss! Hopefully they will self destruct,... never to return!

    June 21, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  3. ShawnDH

    It's good to see a loss in the GOP's dispicable and evil War on the Poor.

    June 21, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  4. Dave

    Thank goodness we did nothing to ensure that the poor do anything to contribute to the common good. It is much better that they sit at home while we have illegals do the jobs they could do, thereby earning their assistance, and building pride in themselves. Liberal slavery continues.

    June 21, 2013 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  5. george busch

    Cantor torpedoes Boehner again. Three cheers for Eric, the man with the drill making holes in the bottom of the ship the GOP is floating on.

    June 21, 2013 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  6. Rudy NYC

    "Cantor released a statement saying House Democrats "shamefully chose politics over progress and meaningful reform." "
    -----------------------
    But, all of the Republicans who voted against the bill were acting on their moral values, which is IOKIYAR.

    June 21, 2013 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  7. chill

    Boehner and he saner parts of the GOP in Congress are going to have to decide whether they are throwing in their hand with the Radical Republicans and killing any chance of meaningful legislation, or working with the majority in the House who are open to compromise and actually want to govern. This demand that the Speaker won't bring anything to the floor that doesn't command a majority of his own party, something that was not set in stone before Dennis Hastert, is anti-democratic- small d. Give a little on the Food Stamp side and they'd get more of the reasonable Democrats. Boehner needs to man up.

    June 21, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  8. TiredOfPaying

    Adding insult to injury, the GOP added an ammemdment that mandated drug testing for food stamp recipients. Of course their base went wild for joy – they believe that everyone on food stamps is a druggie criminal. Well... NEWSFLASH! Florida did exactly that, and only 2% of the receipents tested positive! The net LOSS was over $200k due to paying for the tests. 2% is FIVE TIMES LESS than the average usage rate of illegal drugs! So if anything was learned, its that drug testing the poor is a complete waste of money. But it sure gives the GOP a warm, fuzzy feeling so what does it matter if it doesn't work?

    End the failed War on Drugs.

    June 21, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  9. jboh

    I wonder if GOP leadership is feeling the same about embracing TEAade drinkers as the German high command felt about embracing another extremist after Stalingrad.

    June 21, 2013 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  10. TiredOfPaying

    If the GOP wants to add a 'work requirement' to food stamps, let's start with requiring companies to pay enough in wages so that full-time employees are not still poor. WalMart is the worst of these offenders. The GOP and the corporations KNOW that the wages are not sufficient to keep employees above the poverty line, but they don't care because you and I have to pick up the tab in the form of food stamps.

    I say for every month that a full-time employee does not make enough wages to keep them above the poverty line, the company they work for must give one share of stock to the US treasury. After all, our tax dollars are contributing to their bottom line, so why shouldn't you and I share in the profits?

    June 21, 2013 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  11. scieng1

    This was a bi-partisan defeat of a bad bill. Both sides are right about parts of it. We don't need to subsidize corn production to produce non-edible corn for ethanol and similar programs. We do need to respond to Obama's push for more poverty and increase food stamps accordingly.

    June 21, 2013 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  12. rs

    The GOP is so used to obstructionism that they cannot even pass bills they've created, or that contain things they want. Shameful that these folks get retirement and free health care for the rest of their lives for doing NOTHING. (And the GOP prattles on about "Socialism"!).

    Work requirements are great- when can we apply them to Republicans in Congress?

    June 21, 2013 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  13. roro

    Unbelievable! Republicans voted against it because there were not enough cuts on the poor and working poor of this country. They are all disgusting. Shame on them.

    June 21, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  14. Jaun in El Paso

    In a surprising and embarrassing setback for House Republican – Surprising and embarrassing to who?

    The GOP leadership told everyone in the Senate that if this bill is filled with Democrat handouts that it would be defeated. I fail to understand why the author is spinning this the way she is. Wait,CNN Senior Congressional Producer Deirdre Walsh – nuf said.

    June 21, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  15. Just a thought

    @Dave
    Thank goodness we did nothing to ensure that the poor do anything to contribute to the common good. It is much better that they sit at home while we have illegals do the jobs they could do, thereby earning their assistance, and building pride in themselves. Liberal slavery continues.
    -------
    This proof positive that in the vapid and vaccous GOP/Tea Tard mind there is absolutely no connection to facts or rationality. These geniuses think people are satisfied being poor and destitute, watching their children starving, living in sub-human conditions, trying to choose between buying dog for dinner or much needed medicines. The GOP/Tea Tard party is a pox on this nation

    June 21, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  16. Paul

    @Shawn – cut the Republicans in half – not the number of Republicans but each one of them!

    June 21, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  17. Larry L

    Yet Republicans support subsidies to oil companies – even those making obscene profits! They just can't bring themselves to support anything that actually helps the poor. Most pretend to be "good Christians" and I agree. They are exactly what Christianity has become – fearful, hateful, conspiracy-driven racists.

    June 21, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  18. Percy Shaddock

    Craig in Pa, your absolutly correct, but we couldnt be that lucky.

    June 21, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  19. Larry L

    Republicans continue their war on: the poor, the middle-class, women, gay people, minorities, the environment, healthcare, and all religions other than Christianity.

    June 21, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  20. 53percentcan bewrong

    This discussion board is one more example of the total sense of entitlement which is handicapping our nation. First of all why is the FARM BILL responsible for another welfare program? I believe +60% of the budget goes for welfare programs. I'm all for helping those that actually need help, but not making it lucrative for those that simply care not to work. If most of you claim these people honestly want to contribute to our society let them do some public service work to earn all of these benifits. Otherwise all we are doing is building a larger voting base for further handouts in the future.

    June 21, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  21. Whitehawk

    Food Stamps began as a way to help farmers. As a group, farmers and ranchers have been Republicans. The GOP is striking at some of their strongest base, and they are belittling women. What group will be the next for GOP insult?

    June 21, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  22. Mary1972

    maximusvad,
    Best post of the day. Thanks for the laugh on a Friday.

    June 21, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  23. Rudy NYC

    Larry L

    Yet Republicans support subsidies to oil companies – even those making obscene profits! They just can't bring themselves to support anything that actually helps the poor.
    ------------------
    What's the matter with you? Don't you get it? The oil companies are hard working and the poor are not hard working. The right is always screaming "get a job", and the oil companies are the holy grail. They're "job creators". They've earned it.

    June 21, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  24. Cdog

    So happy the horrible King amendment went down in defeat, along with this terrible bill. A small small victory for the animals that suffer in this nations factory farms.

    June 21, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  25. Rudy NYC

    53percentcan bewrong wrote:

    I'm all for helping those that actually need help, but not making it lucrative for those that simply care not to work. If most of you claim these people honestly want to contribute to our society let them do some public service work to earn all of these benifits. Otherwise all we are doing is building a larger voting base for further handouts in the future.
    -----------------------–
    You are misinformed. There are existing requirements already in place. Pres. Clinton started the "work for welfare" program going on 20 years ago. This isn't about making people work for welfare.

    This is all about the false charge by Republicans that "Pres. Obama is removing the work requirements from welfare". The charge was false because dozens of governors, most of the Republican BTW, had signed a petition to change the federal policies on fulfilling the work requirements. They said "one size fits all" does not work. Let the individual states determine how to best meet the federal work requirements.

    The Republican bill would take that determination away from the states, and go back to "one size fits all" again. That is so stupid and politically motivated, that even couldn't even get enough votes from within their own rank and file.

    June 21, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
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