When the farm bill crashed and burned in the House, after Republicans moved the bill so far to the right in the quest for conservative support that it alienated Democrats, Republicans blamed Dems for failing to provide enough support to enable it to pass.
Republicans have responded to this problem by … moving the bill still further to the right.
As you may have heard, House Republicans are revisiting the farm bill debate by trying to split off the food stamp piece of it and pass the farm section by itself. The theory is that this could pass with Republicans only. Dems bolted on the bill because Republicans insisted on imposing, among other things, an amendment that would have allowed states to impose work requirements on food stamps — on top of the $20 billion in cuts to the program in the House farm bill. So Republicans are whipping to see if they can get Republican support for the farm-only piece, in what Roll Call describes as an effort to “win support from conservatives who abandoned the measure the first time around,” after criticizing it as a “food stamp bill.”
But as it turns out, this still isn’t enough: Today the conservative Club for Growth denounced the latest move, suggesting it won’t end up cutting spending enough; Heritage Action has also come out against it as a procedural ploy that won’t result in real reform. House GOP leaders have not been able to get 218 House votes in support of it, either. The basic objection is that it will likely end up back in conference negotiations with the Senate, where conservatives fear the food stamp piece of the bill will be reattached.
What’s puzzling to Democratic aides about all this is that there is no hint of a desire on Republicans’ part to revisit whether there is any way to work with Democrats to get more of them on board to support the bill. This, after Republicans blamed Dems for failing to provide the margin of votes necessary to overcome the House GOP’s inability to win over enough conservatives to pass it — even with massive concessions to them.
Dems had hoped that Republicans might, say, consider doing away with the food stamp amendment and returning the bill to a form in which it passed the Agriculture Committee with some bipartisan support (before the food stamp amendment was added). Groups such as the National Sustainable Agriculture Committee also saw this as the least bad route forward. (See my Post colleague Brad Plumer’s piece on the policy substance of this debate.)
Obviously, Republicans decided to go in the other direction. But there is no telling whether it will work. And if it fails, there is also no telling whether Republicans will move back in the direction of trying to work with Democrats to get it passed, either. And so it goes in today’s House of Representatives.