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June 13, 2013 9:57 AM Farm Bill Mad House

By Ed Kilgore

In a year when House Republicans seem determined to spoil any of their own party’s “rebranding” efforts, another fiasco seems well under development with the latest effort to enact a new multi-year farm bill after extended delays. The Hill’s Erik Wasson and Molly Hooper have the latest:

The Republican conference is divided on the farm bill, presenting Boehner with one of his biggest challenges since the fiscal cliff battle. Funding for the farm programs has been such a thorny issue that leaders never brought a bill to the floor in 2012
.
Rural Republicans want to see the five-year farm subsidy measure enacted and would be angered with leadership if they pulled the bill. GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) is pushing to get a farm bill done, while Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has not said how he will vote.
But Boehner and the GOP leadership are under pressure from fiscal conservatives to make deeper cuts from food stamps and from payments to producers.

Boehner himself has finally said he’d vote for the bill itself on grounds that it’s the surest way to make sure SNAP (food stamp) funding is cut. But he’s on narrow and shaking ground between conservatives who want much bigger SNAP cuts (including the Club for Growth and Heritage Action, who have come out against the bill) and Democrats who don’t want any cuts at all.

[A] member of the Republican whip team said that, while Boehner’s statement appeared to sway some members, Democrats would need to come through with a sizable number of votes.
“Obviously the Hastert rule can’t apply,” the member said, referring to the informal rule that House leaders only bring forward bills that more than half of the majority supports.

But the last thing John Boehner needs right now is another vote where he has to waive the Hastert Rule and rely on Democrats to achieve a majority. Conservatives are already deeply suspicious that he’ll pull that tactic on immigration reform, and so may be looking for an excuse to get “the base” whipped up over his perfidy. And in any event, progressives unhappy with the $4 billion in SNAP cuts in the Senate-passed bill are going to be hard to round up to pass a House bill cutting $20 billion, even as half the Republicans supporting it (including Boehner himself) are publicly wishing they could cut more.

This is not what the “GOP rebranding” project needs, and offers another data point for those arguing that the one segment of the federal government controlled by the GOP is a a Mad House.

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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