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Farm Bill Flux: Moderate Republicans Not Lining Up to Support

Freedom Caucus senses opportunity to leverage influence

Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J., is among several moderate Republicans opposed or leaning to opposition to the farm bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J., is among several moderate Republicans opposed or leaning to opposition to the farm bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Several moderate House Republicans are firmly opposed to the farm bill or considering voting against it, providing leverage to conservatives who are trying to make their support contingent on securing a separate vote on an immigration bill.

New Jersey Reps. Frank LoBiondo, Christopher Smith, Leonard Lance and Rodney Frelinghuysen said they are “no” or leaning “no” on the farm bill.

“I certainly don’t like the sugar subsidies,” Lance said, noting there’s an amendment to address that but it typically doesn’t pass. He also said he has concerns about provisions on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, saying he opposes the work requirements kicking in for able-bodied adults with children age six or older.

“Children at the age of six is a little young for me,” he said.

Frelinghuysen said he’s never voted for the farm bill and likely wouldn’t this year.

Other moderate Republicans like Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Fred Upton of Michigan and Dan Donovan of New York remain undecided.

“I’m concerned about what’s going to happen with SNAP,” Donovan said. “I’m going to a meeting actually this afternoon to discuss it with leadership.”

Fitzpatrick said he has concerns about the SNAP provisions as well as some of the adult protection provisions.

The dynamic has provided an opening for the House Freedom Caucus to leverage their support for the farm bill in exchange for a House vote on a conservative immigration bill.

House Agriculture Chairman K. Michael Conaway said he’s still working on securing the votes for the farm bill

“We’re confident we’ll get there, but until the red and green lights go up it’s not done,” the Texas Republican said.

Concerns about the bill are coming from both moderates and conservatives, Conaway said.

“I can’t lose 100 percent of either side, so somewhere in between I’ve got to pick up enough of the left, enough of the right on our team to make it to 218 because blocs are big enough that I can’t lose everybody off on side,” he said.

Conaway said he had not talked to the Freedom Caucus about what they want related to immigration in order to get their support, saying that’s up to leadership to decide.

He would not rule out the possibility that the bill could get pulled but noted he doesn’t believe that’s going to happen.

“We think we’ve got the votes,” he said. “We’re going to move forward on that assumption.”

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