Embarrassing setback for House GOP leaders with Farm Bill defeat
June 20th, 2013
05:18 PM ET
9 years 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. kgala

    Which way did the Swiss Farmer Michele Bachmann vote?

    June 21, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  2. Shirley

    Wade, "should have," not "should of." And WHY should it have failed? There are many elderly, and people who CANNOT work who are on food stamps. How STINGY the Republicans are! Shame! Shame! Shame! Voters will remember in 2014 and vote these TEA BAGGERS out of office!

    June 21, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  3. billy

    If you want to see where the problem lies, divide the bill. let the agricultural part stand on its own and the "food stamp" part stand on its own. And if you think it only benefits HUGE FARMS you have know idea about American agriculture.

    June 21, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  4. govogue

    Thank you. The article is poorly written.

    June 21, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  5. Boomer in Mo

    Rudy is right. The farm bill does nothing for "regular" farmers, only big grain, big cotton and the chicken-pork-beef conglomerates. Crop insurance originally was for losses due to hail, which can pulverize a crop, drought, flooding and early or late freezes. But for decades it has been used to provide a profit when farmers plant marginal land that should have been left in grass or trees. Last year, hundreds of acres of upland around me was plowed for the first time ever and planted to soybeans. We had the worst drought since the 1950s and those farmers collected huge amounts of insurance money on a crop that never should have been planted in the first place. The taxpayer subsidizes crop insurance big time. When it comes to food stamps, I know a lot of people who get them and they work every day, sometimes seven days a week or more than one job, for $8 or $9 an hour. I also know some elderly poor who use them. Demonizing ALL food stamp recipients is wrong. There are people too lazy to scratch their own behinds, and they can starve as far as I care. But don't starve little kids and old people. That is something Romney wanted to do and you see where it got him.

    June 21, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  6. dan k

    Stevo and Quiet Dragon, corporate (welfare) taxbreaks and foodstamps are the same thing. The idea of food stamps is that poor children don't end up mentally and physically deficient because of poor nutrition caused by their parents inability to provide. Corporate welfare is to encourage industry to do well despite the state's inability to provide infrastructure.
    Corporations and food stamp recipients have figured out ways to game the system just like states have figured out ways to get people on the new welfare (disability) and off of the state's books. It's an unfortunate situation that we have created.

    June 21, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  7. Dave in Arizona

    With all the bills the House keeps trying to pass to legislate a woman's body that end up failing, you'd think they'd be used to getting nothing done by now...

    June 21, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  8. California

    Hey dems, quit attaching things to bills that don't belong.

    June 21, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  9. Rudy NYC


    Hey dems, quit attaching things to bills that don't belong.
    You're fooling yourself into believing a delusion.

    It is a bill that Boehner and the House Republicans brought to the floor. Any attached amendments are their doing, not the Democrats. Republicans control all of content of every bill brought to the House floor for a vote.

    June 21, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  10. Anonymous


    Wade, "should have," not "should of." And WHY should it have failed? There are many elderly, and people who CANNOT work who are on food stamps. How STINGY the Republicans are! Shame! Shame! Shame! Voters will remember in 2014 and vote these TEA BAGGERS out of office!
    You have it all wrong. The work requirement was for Able Bodied Adults Without Dependants (ABAWD) bewteen the ages of 18-50 or 60 (i believe) NOT for the elderly,NOT for the disabled, NOT for children. BUT fo rABEL BODIED ADULTS!

    June 21, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  11. Anonymous


    Wade, "should have," not "should of." And WHY should it have failed? There are many elderly, and people who CANNOT work who are on food stamps. How STINGY the Republicans are! Shame! Shame! Shame! Voters will remember in 2014 and vote these TEA BAGGERS out of office!
    The work requirement as per the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 was for Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependant. The work requirement was NOT for children, NOT for the elderly, and NOT for the disabled. Your concern for the elderly is admirable but before you vote, know the truth!

    June 21, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  12. California

    Rudy NYC – Attaching things that don't belong CAN assure that it's turned down. Give either side a reason.

    Example would be Sudent loans had nothing to do with the health care bill.

    June 21, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  13. Shirley

    I love teabagging every night.

    Anyone want to be teabagged now?

    June 21, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  14. elkwc

    Farm insurance is nothing but farmer welfare. Up until 8-10 years ago this was milo country. A few tried dryland corn but it wasn't profitable. If you were lucky you could raise a crop that made money 1-2 years out of ten. On milo you could a money making crop at least 8 out of 10 years. But then Congress made the farm insurance better and at least 80% grow dryland corn now. I heard one say he knew that he probably wouldn't raise a crop. But that it didn't matter. He was planting it for the insurance money and not what he could raise. The selected few agents who are able to get approval to sell it become instant millionaires. And many of them are farmers also. When they had hearings in this area one farmer testified at the OK hearings and again in Garden City telling about how the farmers needed the insurance. But he forgot to tell either group that him and his son have made millions selling crop insurance. As a livestock owner I always paid 100% of any insurance I purchased. The same should be true for farmers. It is time for them to learn to stand on their own and quit farming for the taxpayer dollar.

    June 22, 2013 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6