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June 20, 2013 3:55 PM Farm Bill Goes Down Hard

By Ed Kilgore

In what was generally expected to be a close vote, the House Farm Bill was defeated pretty soundly on the floor today by a 195-234 margin. 172 Democrats joined with 62 Republicans to beat the sprawling legislative package with something to offend virtually everyone. Most of the buzz, of course, involved the bill’s $20 billion cut in funding for SNAP (food stamps), which was too much for Democrats and not enough for many Tea Folk.

Having fallen between two stools, House leaders, of course, chose to blame Democrats, per this report from The Hill:

Immediately after the vote, Republicans were apoplectic at what they characterized as a betrayal by Democratic leaders, who did not deliver the votes they promised.
“The Democrats walked away from this,” Boehner, who cast a rare vote in favor of the bill, told The Hill as he walked off the House floor.
He would not answer further questions as he returned to his office….
[A] GOP aide said at the last moment, Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) said they could not produce that many because of pressure from Democratic leaders and the White House, which had threatened to veto the bill over the food stamp cuts.
Peterson blamed the approval of two amendments for the failure. One of the amendments — backed by Boehner — ended production limits on dairy producers that were a part of the underlying bill.
The second, sponsored by Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.), allowed states to require food stamp beneficiaries to either work or look for work.
“I told Cantor that Southerland cost us 15 votes,” Peterson said, referring to Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). “A lot of people came up to me and said, I’m with you, but I’m out now.”

So now House leaders are making vengeful noises about tilting the bill even further to the right to attract more Republicans, which will make the already-large gulf between House and Senate bills much larger.

If you begin with the proposition that a bill probably wasn’t going to be enacted this year, then the significance of this vote is probably that Boehner was reminded once again that conservatives feel no particular compunction to follow his lead, whether he’s fighting Democrats or trying to get legislation enacted in defiance of the Hastert Rule. At a minimum, they need an ideological justification for taking anything other than the hardest possible line against Big Government as represented by the New Deal and Great Society programs, and despite Steve King’s appointment as GOP manager of the Farm Bill, they didn’t get enough of it here.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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