The future of most U.S. farm programs is in question today, as the House of Representatives voted down a new five-year farm bill that had bipartisan support in the House Agriculture Committee. Background, details on today’s vote, and some Iowa reaction are after the jump.
The last long-term farm bill expired in 2012. The Senate had passed a five-year bill to replace it, and a House version cleared the Agriculture Committee last summer, but House Republican leaders never brought their chamber’s version of the legislation to the full House floor. Many conservatives in the GOP caucus object to the cost of the farm bill, and in particular food assistance and nutrition programs.
At the turn of the new year, the lame duck Congress approved a temporary extension of most farm programs, hoping to give the next House and Senate time to approve a new long-term farm bill.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate approved a new five-year Farm Bill with bipartisan support. Iowa’s Senators Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin were both among the 66 yes votes.
House leaders knew before bringing the farm bill to the floor today that they would need a substantial number of Democratic votes to pass the bill. However, they allowed votes on two conservative amendments that prompted dozens of Democrats to defect. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called it “amateur hour.”
The first controversial amendment, championed by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), would eliminate government production limits on dairy processors. The second, sponsored Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.), would empower states to require food stamp beneficiaries to seek work while on the program.
“They put two seeds of their own destruction in the bill,” Pelosi charged.
Pelosi noted that 58 Republicans voted for the Southerland amendment, then voted against the final bill. She questioned why GOP leaders allowed a vote on an amendment that posed such a threat to the overall package.
“It’s a stunning thing,” she said. “Why would you give people an amendment that’s going to kill your bill?”
Cheers were heard on the House floor after the farm bill was defeated, but they didn’t come from the Iowa delegation. Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) were among the 24 Democrats who voted yes. Tom Lathm (IA-03) and Steve King (IA-04) were among the 171 House Republicans who supported the bill. But 195 yes votes isn’t enough to pass a bill—there were simply too many Republican defectors. Click here for the roll call.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a conservative charged with whipping GOP votes for the bill, was surprised by the number of GOP defections.
“I was surprised by about half of them,” he said. “I thought they would have taken more of a 10,000 foot view. We are ending direct payments in this bill, we are starting to reveres the obscene growth of the food stamp program.”
King blamed key vote alerts from Heritage Action and Club for Growth for hurting the bill and also acknowledged that the Boehner-backed dairy amendment and Southerland food stamp work requirement cost key Democratic support.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey sounds very concerned about the path forward for the farm bill.
Statement from Bruce Braley:
Washington, D.C. – Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) today released the following statement after the US House of Representatives rejected the Farm Bill by a vote of 195-234.
Braley was one of 24 Democrats who voted for the bill, HR 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013:
“I am angry and frustrated at the failure of the House to recognize the importance of a long-term Farm Bill extension to farmers and rural America. Passing a Farm Bill isn’t optional – it’s a necessity for Iowa agriculture producers who need certainty and predictability so they can invest in the future, create jobs, and grow our economy.
“Today’s vote is Washington at its very worst: when ideology stands in the way of progress for our economy and the American people. Once again, the House has failed in its responsibility to pass a bipartisan Farm Bill after the Senate did its job.
“While this Farm Bill was far from perfect, the best way to fix its flaws is to work together to find common ground – not reject it entirely and start from nothing. I’m proud the four members of Iowa’s delegation agreed and voted together to move the Farm Bill forward. I will continue to work to bring Democrats and Republicans together to pass a Farm Bill because the stakes are too high to accept failure.”
Statement from Dave Loebsack:
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack released the following statement after the House voted down the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (HR 1947), the farm bill.
“The inability of the House to come together and move a farm bill forward is inexcusable. I have been calling for a farm bill for over a year now. Failure to enact a farm bill means jobs in our rural communities are at risk and cuts to rural and farm initiatives critical to Iowa’s economy are likely. I stood with the entire Iowa delegation to advance this critical legislation for farmers, Iowa’s economy, and families. The Senate was able to find commonsense compromise. The House needs to do the same.
“I am deeply concerned with the extreme cuts to anti-hunger initiatives, known as SNAP, that were contained in the bill. Our economy is still struggling to recover and many families rely on this program to put food on the table and ensure their children do not go to school hungry. I was the only member from Iowa to cosponsor an amendment to restore these cuts and fought to have it included in the bill. Today’s vote shows that restoration of SNAP funding is critical to a farm bill being enacted.
“I am also concerned that this bill would have gutted rural energy measures that are critical to Iowa jobs and energy independence. There were over 1,600 rural energy projects initiated in Iowa between 2003 and 2012, many stemming from farm bill energy programs. These investments are vitally important to job creation and Iowa’s economy. I led the fight to ensure farmers and rural businesses have continued access to an important energy and economic development tool with my amendment that was added to the bill to strengthen the REAP program.
“I will continue to fight to get a farm bill signed into law that supports families, farmers and our rural economy.”
Statement from Tom Latham:
WASHINGTON – Iowa Congressman Tom Latham released the following statement today after the U.S. House of Representatives voted down H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act of 2013, by a tally of 195-234. Latham voted in favor of the legislation.
“I am deeply disappointed with the House’s failure to join together to pass this Farm Bill. For months now, the agriculture community in Iowa and across the United States has requested and deserved a long-term policy that gives them certainty from Washington, and today unfortunately marks further and harmful delay.
“The record now shows that nearly three out of four House Republicans voted to help advance sensible reforms to agriculture programs and provide certainty to Iowa farmers, while barely one in ten House Democrats can say the same. However, I have real frustration with the members of both parties – Republican and Democrat – who have blocked progress on this issue, denying us the opportunity to achieve $40 billion in commonsense savings to taxpayers and Iowa farmers the respect and certainty they deserve.”
Statement from Steve King:
Washington, DC- Congressman Steve King, the Chairman of the Department Operations, Oversight, and Nutrition Subcommittee, released the following statement after the House voted down H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act today. King voted in favor of the legislation.
“I am extremely disappointed, especially for all the people who put in so much work the past two years in the farm bill,” said King. “I am disappointed for the taxpayers and for America. I will continue my work with Chairman Lucas and other agriculture leaders in Congress, and reassess. I am hopeful we will find a path forward.”
UPDATE: Senator Tom Harkin released this statement on June 20:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today issued the following statement after the House of Representatives failed to pass the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013. The Senate farm bill, The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013, was approved last week with overwhelming bipartisan support by a 66-27 vote.
“The House of Representatives today utterly failed in its fundamental responsibility to pass a basic food and agriculture bill for our nation. The Republican leadership of the House could have formulated legislation and a legislative strategy leading to bipartisan passage of a new farm bill and then to conference negotiations with the Senate. By falling in line behind harsh nutrition program policies and funding cuts, the House majority caucus and its leadership doomed the bill. The Senate has twice passed a balanced farm bill that includes critical investments for food, agriculture, conservation, energy and rural programs while reducing federal spending. For two years, the Senate has worked to pass a bipartisan farm bill that reforms farm programs, ends direct payments, and creates jobs. It is time for the House to do the same.”
LATE UPDATE: Steve King appeared on Iowa Public Radio’s “River to River” program on June 26, and host Dean Borg asked several questions about the farm bill. King confirmed that he cannot support the Senate version of the bill, which Braley and Loebsack are trying to introduce in the House. He said he and others are working on a compromise but didn’t sound confident that they will succeed:
“At this point, I don’t know if we can do it,” King says. […]
“Talking about our strategy about how to put this all back together again,” King says, “to see if we can.”
Sixty-two House Republicans voted no and 24 Democrats in the House voted for the Farm Bill. King says each needs to be approached to see what might change their vote, because if they make changes to accommodate Republicans’ concerns that might cause some Democrats who had supported the bill to oppose it.
“Balancing a teeter-totter, so to speak,” King says, “and trying to get that fulcrum in just the right place so we can get 218 votes.”
King recognizes that increasing the food and nutrition cuts in the House bill may drive more Democrats away, although it seems to me that Braley and Loebsack would vote for just about anything to get the farm bill into a conference committee.