Immigration and the budget are far more complex issues than the farm bill, a measure that both chambers typically pass with bipartisan ease. Not this time.
Senior Republicans accused House Democrats of political gamesmanship, alleging that the Democrats withdrew their support at the last minute to embarrass GOP leaders. But conservative advocacy groups claimed victory, suggesting that the 62 Republicans who opposed the legislation did so with an intent to draft a more conservative, less costly plan.
Democrats, who opposed a $20.5 billion cut to the food-stamp program in the measure, said the failure was the result of Republicans’ inability to govern their caucus or count votes. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called it “amateur hour.”
Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said, “They turned what should have been a non-controversial farm bill into a partisan mess. I cannot imagine what they will manage to do with a controversial immigration bill.”
The agriculture sector stands to suffer the most from the bill’s failure. Without action later this year, American farmers will fall back to a 1949 law governing the industry, which could lead to steep price increases on items such as milk.
The Senate passed its version of a longer term farm bill earlier this month on a bipartisan vote of 66 to 27. The measure calls for spending $24 billion less than current law by ending programs such as a $5 billion direct cash subsidy program for absentee farmers. The House plan would have resulted in nearly $40 billion in savings, in large part by slashing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, widely known as food stamps.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) predicted as recently as last Thursday, when discussing the farm bill drafted by Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank D. Lucas (R-Okla.) over the past two years, that “you'll see strong bipartisan majorities for bills that we bring to the floor.”
Instead, by the time the gavel fell, Lucas was left in the middle of the floor collecting condolences from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. There is no clear plan for what will happen next, as the Sept. 30 deadline for the expiration of the current stopgap farm bill approaches.
“It’s just disappointing that we have seen now the Democrats putting partisanship over progress,” Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told reporters as he left the House floor after the vote.