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Cantor Eyes Revised Farm Bill, Immigration Bills in July

Did Majority Leader Eric Cantor just signal that House Republicans will split the farm bill and use a piecemeal approach for an immigration overhaul?

His July legislative agenda memo to House Republicans on Friday offers hints. That agenda, the Virginia Republican says, may include a “revised farm bill” and “immigration proposals.”

Both items have been the focus of deep speculation, as House Republicans decide whether and how to reconsider the farm bill — as one bill or by splitting farm provisions from nutritional assistance — and whether the House would consider immigration legislation in one comprehensive measure or by a piecemeal approach.

Cantor’s memo leaves little doubt on immigration.

“The House may begin consideration of the border security measures that have been passed by the Homeland Security and Judiciary Committees and begin reviewing other immigration proposals,” the internal memo obtained by CQ Roll Call says.

The memo to House Republicans also says Cantor looks forward to the special conference meeting on July 10 on “how to fix broken our broken immigration system” [sic].

As for the farm bill, the future is still hazy.

“Members should be prepared to act on a revised farm bill,” the memo says.

While leadership may not have a final decision on either matter, Cantor has privately been pushing to separate the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps, from the farm provisions, in a bid to pick up votes from conservatives. According to the Congressional Budget Office, SNAP accounts for $743.9 billion of the estimated $972.3 billion cost of the House bill over the next 10 years.

“Cantor believes the best path now is to move forward with a bill that has 218 Republican votes since Democrats proved they cannot be trusted to work in good faith, and that path may be splitting up the bill,” a GOP aide told CQ Roll Call last week.

The farm bill suffered a surprise defeat, 195-234, on June 20 when all but 24 Democrats refused to vote for the bill after Republicans adopted a number of controversial amendments on near-party-line votes.

GOP aides have said leadership wants to pass a farm bill before members leave for August recess.

“We will also consider options moving forward on Obamacare now that the administration delayed the employer mandate,” the memo reads.

The House has already repealed the 2010 health care law nearly 40 times, but the news that the Obama administration will delay the employer mandate for a year, until 2015, has some lawmakers questioning the president’s ability to not enforce laws.

The legislative agenda memo also says lawmakers may consider:

Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act (HR 2218)
Energy Consumers Relief Act (HR 1582)
Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act (HR 1900)
Student Success Act (HR 5)
Kids First Research Act (HR 2019)

Energy and Water Appropriations
Defense Appropriations
Financial Services Appropriations
Transportation, HUD Appropriations
Agriculture Appropriations

That’s a busy schedule for a chamber that is in session 14 days in July, only eight of which are full days.

Chuck Conlon and Ellyn Ferguson contributed to this report.

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