Political Hari Kari? Republican House Defeats Farm Bill
A big embarrassment and political stumble for the GOP. The House Republican have defeated the farm bill 195-234. You have to wonder if the current members of the Republican Party are ordering a pup tent given all the potential constituencies the party is alienating.
In a blow to House GOP leaders, the House on Thursday rejected a five-year farm bill.
Members voted down the $940 billion bill in a 195-234 vote that only won 24 Democratic votes. Most Democrats voted against the bill because it cut food stamp programs by more than $20 billion.
Many Republicans also voted no, but for a different reason. They said it was too expensive a bill to pass when the country has $17 trillion in debt.
The problem here for the GOP is it will continue to feed into the image — that is being fed seemingly all day — of a party that puts conservative ideology above anything else. It’s ideology versus the needs of people, needs of women, needs of rising demographic groups. Some will argue that’s a highly unfair image — but it is the image that’s being reinforced every day. It’s also another shining monument to House Speaker John Boehner being one of the most ineffective speakers in Congressional history. MORE:
In the final vote, 62 Republicans opposed the bill, and with the Democratic defections, that was enough to send it to defeat.
The final tally was delayed for several minutes as GOP leaders held the vote open, while Democrats called for the vote to close.
The vote is a blow to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other Republican leaders who for two years have failed to move farm policy forward. The issue has badly divided Republicans.
Immediately after the vote, Republicans were apoplectic at what they characterized as a betrayal by Democratic leaders, who did not deliver the votes they promised.
“The Democrats walked away from this,” Boehner, who cast a rare vote in favor of the bill, told The Hill as he walked off the House floor.
He would not answer further questions as he returned to his office.
The chief Republican vote-counter, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), also blamed Democrats and said the bill could come back to the floor next week, with changes. “We can correct it if [Democrats] are not going to help us,” he said after the vote.
McCarthy’s comment suggests GOP leaders wil seek to make the bill more appealing to conservatives.
I added the boldface. American policy is now basically subject to the veto power of conservatives — and many of them do not want to compromise with liberals, moderates or even other Republicans.
The Huffington Post:
Republican and Democratic leaders waged a blame game Thursday after GOP-backed cuts to food stamps unexpectedly derailed a trillion-dollar piece of legislation known as the farm bill.
The bill’s stunning failure sets back for a second year progress on the country’s agricultural policies and gives House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) a fresh black eye after his chamber failed to move a farm bill last year. The Senate has passed its version twice, with large majorities.
The contentious measure would have cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by $20.5 billion, or roughly $2 billion per year — depriving 2 million Americans of food assistance — and a sufficient number of Democrats were apparently ready to approve it.
But this week Republicans added amendments to let states drug-test SNAP program beneficiaries and set up additional work requirements that anti-hunger advocates and Democrats warned would give states incentives to boot even more people from the food-stamp rolls.
It’s a case — as I predict we WILL see in immigration reform when the bill goes to the House — of ideological Republicans adding a “poison pill” to a bill, figuring like it or lump it. The Democrats also dug in their heels, but it was on the principal of not making it more difficult for segments of the country that face great difficulties already.
The latter amendment, from Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.), became a sticking point.
While Democrats said the measure would essentially pay states to reduce enrollment, Republicans touted the supposed success of a similar policy in the 1996 “welfare reform” law, which instituted work requirements in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
“We cannot continue to deny able-bodied people the dignity of work,” said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.). “There seems to be a belief in the nanny state that there’s something wrong with requiring abled-bodied people to work. That’s what this amendment does.”
The idea was to make more SNAP beneficiaries sign up for training programs on pain of losing benefits. But Democrats noted there was no funding for training, and that it included parents of young children and even many disabled people. Nor did it place any restrictions on how states could use the money they saved, allowing them to shift it away from employment programs.
How serious is this politically? Read the Reuters story:
Republican budget-cutters joined with Democratic defenders of food stamps on Thursday to deal a shocking defeat to the proposed $500 billion, five-year farm bill backed by Republican leaders, undermining hopes of enacting such legislation before the current stop-gap law expires.
“Today’s failure leaves the entire food and agriculture sector in the lurch,” the American Soybean Association, a group which represents growers, said in a statement.
Frank Lucas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, said there may not be another chance to craft a farm bill this year.
The level of funding for food stamps for low-income Americans was the major issue for the farm bill. Lucas’ bill called for the largest cuts in food stamps in a generation.
The Senate passed a bill last week that proposed a $4 billion cut, compared to the $20 billion cut of the House bill. The cuts in the House legislation would have ended benefits to 2 million people, or about 4 percent of enrollment.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor blamed Democrats for the outcome, saying they were not interested in consensus.
Steny Hoyer, the assistant Democratic leader, said the bill failed because Republicans insisted on “egregious” changes to food stamps.
All but two dozen Democrats in the House voted against the bill. The biggest surprise was that about one quarter of the Republican majority also voted no, in most instances because they wanted the bill to include deeper cuts to food stamps and other programs than proposed. The 234-195 vote undermined hopes of enacting a farm bill before the current stop-gap law expires in the fall.
(This sentence has been copied and pasted from a previous post).
Republican rebranding isn’t working too well…
Washington Monthly’s Ed Kilgore:
So now House leaders are making vengeful noises about tilting the bill even further to the right to attract more Republicans, which will make the already-large gulf between House and Senate bills much larger.
If you begin with the proposition that a bill probably wasn’t going to be enacted this year, then the significance of this vote is probably that Boehner was reminded once again that conservatives feel no particular compunction to follow his lead, whether he’s fighting Democrats or trying to get legislation enacted in defiance of the Hastert Rule. At a minimum, they need an ideological justification for taking anything other than the hardest possible line against Big Government as represented by the New Deal and Great Society programs, and despite Steve King’s appointment as GOP manager of the Farm Bill, they didn’t get enough of it here.
farm photo via shutterstock.com