What is in this article?:
- House passes controversial, stripped-down farm bill
- Changes, reactions
- House passes farm bill 216-208.
- Nutrition Title removed from bill, will be taken up by the House Agriculture Committee in coming days.
- Bill would change permanent law requirements.
The House has passed a farm bill stripped of the Nutrition Title on a 216 to 208 vote. Passage came Thursday (July 11) afternoon following a quick wind-up of the new bill and a late Wednesday night meeting of the Rules Committee to set the vote process in motion.
Angry Democrats took to the floor to denounce the 608-page bill that they were presented with only hours earlier. If it somehow reaches the White House – seemingly impossible with a conference of the Democrat-controlled Senate waiting -- President Obama will veto it.
Oklahoma Rep. Frank Lucas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, vowed to quickly tackle the Nutrition Title separately in another bill.
Just prior to the vote, Lucas spoke on why such an approach was necessary. After many consultations with fellow lawmakers, “I came to the realization I had to think outside the box.”
Besides leaving the Nutrition Title for later, another change has to do with permanent law. Lucas defended replacing 1938 and 1949 permanent law with “whatever the ultimate product this farm bill process this year is. … I know many of you say ‘(older permanent law) is the hammer with which we force things to happen.’ Well, the hammer hasn’t worked very well in the last two years, has it? It’s time to move past that old paradigm, craft good agricultural policy for rural America and the consumer out there, and make it the permanent law.”
As for the Nutrition Title, Lucas claimed it became “quite clear that was the most complicated part of the process.” While admitting he is unable to guarantee what will eventually come out of the Agriculture Committee on nutrition, he pledged, “I assure you it will be a fair and open process. I assure you, you’ll be able to state your will on this floor. And hopefully, if 218 of us can agree on a Nutrition Title, two (House) bills can be conferenced with the Senate.”
Earlier in the debate, substantial partisan fault lines cracked open even wider.
Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, chairman of the House Rules Committee, tried to spread the blame for the failed farm bill vote in June. “In the vote that was held for the farm bill 171 Republicans voted for it and 62 Republicans voted against it. Twenty-four Democrats voted for it and 172 voted against it.
“This meant the farm bill didn’t pass and as a result of the significance of the underlying legislation of the farm bill – that does include provisions related to (food stamps) -- the Republican leadership … felt it was very important for this body, as quickly as we returned, to offer a bill that could be passed. … Remember, only 24 Democrats (voted for) the previous bill. We’re attempting to separate, bifurcate, offer a rule and underlying legislation which will hopefully pass, which would go to conference. The Senate, because they’ve passed their own farm bill, has included in provisions where they discuss SNAP. … That will be included in their bill on a conference measure. … (Nutrition funding will be) fully debatable under the conference.
“The Senate conferees could stick to their position and hold to cut $4 billion. (The House) wouldn’t have a position to cut a penny.
“I believe this is an honest attempt … to get to conference. The tactics against that are simply to keep us from going to conference.”
Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, minority whip, returned to two grievances that Democrats continually drove home regarding the failed farm bill in June: poison pill amendments and the inability of House leadership to keep its own caucus in line. “You lost 62 votes on your side of the aisle notwithstanding the fact that you adopted three amendments that (Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee) advised you would undercut his ability and the Democrats’ ability to support the bill…
“That was to the knowledge of (Rep. Lucas). I know Mr. Lucas knew those were undermining.”
While Hoyer acknowledged Sessions’ sincere desire to reach conference with some sort of farm bill, “there was little or no discussion about how we could move forward and create a greater bipartisan coalition. … The constructive way this could have passed would be if we reached a bipartisan compromise. Unfortunately, as is too frequently the case, we’ve gone to an ultra-partisan resolution to try and pass this bill and presumably a number of 62 (Republicans who voted against the bill three weeks ago). You’ll need a substantial number of the 62 because, as you can tell, (Democrats) don’t believe this is a process we can support.”
Sessions said Republicans “rightly or wrongly” were now “attempting to be forthright and honest about what’s in the bill and what our intents are. … What we’ve done is excluded some extraneous pieces that would cause the bill to fail.”
If Sessions was trying to keep the debate on a low boil, his use of the word “extraneous” was a mistake. Democrats seized on it and repeatedly made the point that nutrition is not a minor consideration if one wants to stay alive.