Split GOP Caucus Fails to Pass Farm Bill

Disagreements over food stamps, commodity titles force Speaker of the Huuse John Boehner back to the drawing board.

John Boehner.

National Republican leaders are feeling the pressure to build a broader coalition of Latino support.

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Divisions within the Republican caucus on food stamps, commodity programs and crop insurance brought the House version of the farm bill crashing down Thursday.

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More than a quarter of the Republican caucus voted against the House farm bill, which shaves $20.5 billion in food stamps, would consolidate more than 100 agricultural programs and eliminates direct payments to farmers.

Many who voted against the legislation said that the bill did not cut enough from food stamps, even though it cut five times as much as the Senate version of the bill. The bill fell by a vote of 234 to 195.

"The few improvements made in this bill that would have helped feed Americans with Kansas products are overshadowed by some insurmountable problems: an out-of-control food stamp program that swallows 80 percent of this trillion-dollar bill before we even get to agriculture policy," Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., said in a released statement following his 'no' vote.

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Others expressed dismay with the House farm bill's energy program, which gives green energy producers grants to build and operate environmentally-friendly energy systems, and the dairy provision, which would require producers to limit milk supply when the market is saturated.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who publicly supported the bill, did not bring the legislation to the floor last year when the GOP caucus was again divided over commodities titles and food stamps. The defeat illustrates the precarious situation Boehner faces as he works to bridge the interests of his most conservative tea party members with the interests of more moderate Republicans.

The farm bill's failure may also signal yet another instance when Boehner will have to elicit the votes of Democrats to get comprehensive legislation passed.

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Boehner violated the so-called Hastert rule – which forbids depending on the minority party – to pass the Violence Against Women's Act and to stop a fiscal meltdown on New Year's Day.

In order to get more Democrats on board, however, Boehner would have to drastically reduce the cuts to food assistance programs in the $900 million bill.

"The House needs to find a way to get a five-year farm bill done. The Speaker needs to work in a bipartisan way and present a bill that Democrats and Republicans can support. He could start by bringing the senate bill to the floor for a vote," Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said in a released statement following the failed vote. "This is totally unacceptable."

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