Farm Bill Finally Passes the House (Updated)
Updated 2:31 p.m. | Almost six months after the farm bill went down on the floor in partisan flames and GOP whip counts necessitated a variety of political maneuvers just to get the measure to conference, the House on Wednesday morning finally passed a five-year reauthorization of the nation’s agriculture and nutrition programs. The fiercely negotiated farm bill conference report cleared the threshold for passage. Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Sen. Debbie Stabenow, one of the key negotiators of the conference report, was on the House floor during the vote. The final vote was 251-166. Republican and Democratic leaders supported the conference report, conceding that any imperfections outweighed the imperative that a farm bill finally get signed into law.
It didn’t stop defections, however, from rank-and-file members on both sides of the aisle. The bill would not have been able to pass without Democratic support, with 63 Republicans voting no. Democrats were split nearly in half, with many opposing any cuts to the food stamp program.
The Republican defectors represent the far-right contingent of the party, among them Tea Party Caucus founder Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Randy Weber of Texas, who on State of the Union night tweeted from the House chamber that he was awaiting the arrival of the “Kammandant-in-Chief.”
The GOP “no” column included those who fought hard for the bifurcated farm bill that funded agriculture and nutrition titles in separate pieces of legislation, such as Rep. Marlin Stutzman of Indiana.
“Last summer, the American people won an important victory for common sense and transparency when we ended the unholy alliance between food stamps and farm programs,” Stutzman said on the House floor. “Business as usual fought back and here we are today.”
There were also a few members of Republican leadership who opposed it: Republican Policy Committee Chairman and newly announced Senate candidate James Lankford of Oklahoma, Republican Conference Secretary Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas and Tom Price of Georgia, who doesn’t have an official leadership title but has the ear of his colleagues at the highest ranks.
The 103 Democrats who voted “no” were also predictable. They included some of the loudest voices against cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, primarily Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut.
“Congress has lost its way,” DeLauro said in a statement. “This conference report is nothing more than Reverse Robin Hood legislation that steals food from the poor in favor of crop subsidies for the rich.”
The chairman and ranking member of the House Democratic Caucus Xavier Becerra, Calif., and Joseph Crowley, N.Y., also opposed the conference report on Wednesday morning, as did the co-chairmen of the Congressional Progressive Caucus: Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Keith Ellison, D-Minn.
There a number of Democratic ranking members, too, who voted against the report: Maryland’s Elijah E. Cummings of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee; Oregon’s Peter A. DeFazio of the Natural Resources panel; California’s George Miller of the Education and the Workforce Committee; and Maxine Waters, also from California, of the Financial Services Committee.
“No” votes also came from ranking members Sander M. Levin, D-Mich., of Ways and Means, and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., of the Budget Committee. They had been pushing for farm bill savings to be used to pay for an extension of emergency unemployment insurance, which expired a month ago.
That campaign was unsuccessful.