By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 23, 2008
With an overwhelming 82 to 13 vote, the Senate yesterday completed the override of President Bush's veto of a comprehensive farm bill, shrugging off Republican concerns about an embarrassing legislative glitch to make the $307 billion bill the law of the land.
House GOP leaders continued to grumble that Democrats had violated the Constitution by pressing forward with the veto override after they discovered that a whole section of the bill on trade policy had been inadvertently dropped from the version vetoed Wednesday.
But Democratic leaders said they had court precedent and constitutional scholars on their side. "The veto override will have the force of law," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Pelosi added that her original response upon learning of the mistake had been "uncustomarily crude."
Senate Republican leaders appeared unconcerned. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) were among the 35 Republicans who joined in the most significant legislative rebuff of Bush's presidency.
"By overturning the president's veto, we are making substantial investments in nutrition programs to help millions of families afford healthy food, in help for farmers hit by disaster and to protect our nation's natural resources," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
Lawmakers said they would take up the farm law's trade section as a separate bill and pass it after their Memorial Day break.
An enrolling clerk dropped the section, which includes international food aid programs, as the measure was being sent to the White House. The glitch gave Republican leaders, who were badly divided by the bill itself, a chance to unite around a new cause. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) took to the floor to call for an ethics committee investigation, which was voted down on party lines.
House Democratic leaders did push the entire farm bill back through the House again yesterday, in case they decide to start the process over again. But that appeared doubtful after the Senate's action.
Citing the Supreme Court's 192 decision in Field v. Clark, House parliamentarian John Sullivan released a statement yesterday saying that "the law that would result from a bicameral override of the President's veto on H.R. 2419 would be the text that was presented to the President on parchment, notwithstanding its omission of the congressionally intended [trade] title."