WASHINGTON, June 20, 2013 – House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas acted like a “maestro” to orchestrate a new farm bill on the House floor this week, according to Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. But still, the Oklahoma Republican could not convince 234 lawmakers, including 62 from his own party, to play the same tune.
Shortly before the measure failed by 195-234 Thursday, Lucas made a final plea for passage, urging the House to vote “yes” and avoid the label of “a dysfunctional body... full of dysfunctional people.” But hopes for bipartisanship were largely dashed, with only 24 Democrats voting for the bill.
Lucas won support from Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. However, the bill just didn’t cut enough out of the nutrition programs for the likes of those aligned with the tea party, including Reps. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., Paul Broun, R-Ga., Steve Stockman, R- Texas, Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., and Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind. Both Huelskamp and Stutzman share farming roots and represent primarily rural districts.
Others conservatives, like Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., told Agri-Pulse the bill would have to be significantly rewritten before he could support it because of concerns over crop insurance and food stamps.
Five House Committee Chairmen, including Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte – a former chair of the Agriculture Committee – voted against the bill. That’s despite the fact that Goodlatte overwhelmingly won a major amendment to remove the dairy stabilization provisions.
“It’s a demonstration of major amateur hour,” noted Ranking Democrat Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., about the House leadership after the vote. “They didn’t get the results and they put the blame on someone else.“
Pelosi noted that 58 GOP members voted for Florida Rep. Steve Southerland’s amendment, which allowed states to require food stamp beneficiaries to either work or look for work. But then they voted “no” on the final bill.
“Why would you put an amendment there that would lose Democratic votes, that is going to make the bill worse?” she asked. “And they didn’t stick with leadership on final package. Isn’t that remarkable?”
Leader Cantor tried to focus the blame back on Pelosi.
"I'm extremely disappointed that Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leadership have at the last minute chosen to derail years of bipartisan work on the Farm Bill and related reforms. This bill was far from perfect, but the only way to achieve meaningful reform, such as Congressman Southerland's amendment reforming the food stamp program, was in conference,” noted Cantor after the vote.
Rep. Collin Peterson, who serves as ranking member of the House Committee on Agriculture, said he originally had over 40 Democrats willing to vote for the farm bill. But after the amendment passed to remove the dairy stabilization provisions he lost 3-4 members and about a dozen more switched their votes after the Southerland amendment.
“It was a combination of dairy and Southerland,” Peterson said of the two amendments that prompted Democrats to turn away from voting for the final bill.
When Southerland’s food stamp provision came up as the last amendment, “I had a bunch of people come up to me and say, ‘I was with you, but this is it. I’m done,’” Peterson added.
Some Republicans blamed Peterson for overpromising and under delivering his fellow Democrats to support the bill. But the Minnesota Democrat, who led passage of the 2008 farm bill when Democrats controlled the House, was quick to respond.
“I’m not in charge. They are.”
For a roll call of the final farm bill vote, click:
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