The House farm bill went down in flames on Thursday, with a final tally of 195 to 234. In a rebuke to party leadership, 62 Republicans voted against the bill.

The failure occurred even after Speaker John Boehner’s endorsement of the legislation and an impassioned plea by Oklahoma Rep. Frank Lucas, chairman House Agriculture Committee, just minutes before the final vote.

“I’d say this to all of you: ultimately this body has to do its work” said Lucas. “Ultimately we have to move a product that we can go to conference with. Ultimately we have to work out a consensus with the Senate so that we’ll have a final document we can all consider together. Hopefully, we’ll support it and the President will sign it into law.

“I have tried in good faith, working with (Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, ranking member) and each and every one of you in every facet of these issues to achieve that consensus. I have tried...

“But we’re at this critical moment. Whether you believe the bill has too much reform or not enough -- or you believe it cuts too much or doesn’t cut enough – we have to move this document forward to achieve a common goal: to meet the needs of our citizens. No matter what part of the country, no matter whether they produce or consume the food, we have to meet the common need in a responsible fashion.

“I plead to you, I implore you. ... Vote with me to move this forward. If you care about the consumers, the producers, the citizens of this country, move this bill forward.

“If it fails today, I can’t guarantee that you’ll see in this session of Congress another attempt. ... If you care about your folks, if you care about this institution, if you care about utilizing open order, vote with me.

“And if you don’t, when you leave here they’ll just say ‘it’s a dysfunctional body, a broken institution full of dysfunctional people.’ That’s not true! You know that’s not true.

“Cast your vote in a responsible fashion. That’s all I can ask.”

The post-mortem began immediately after the vote. Lucas’ plea fell on too many deaf ears for several reasons. First, too many Democrats opposed the bill over $20 billion in cuts to nutrition programs. Too many Republicans opposed the legislation over its $950 billion price tag.


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Among the controversial proposals passed largely by Republicans were provisions allowing states to drug-test SNAP recipients. An amendment offered by Florida Rep. Steve Southerland was approved just before the final vote and would have allowed states to require that SNAP recipients either be employed or looking for work.

Also passed was an amendment that would have capped subsidies to farms at $250,000.

Despite the controversial proposals, several Capitol Hill insiders told Farm Press that they had expected the bill to pass.