In a surprising turn of events, the hotly-debated farm bill failed to pass the House today, with the final vote being 195 – 234.
The bill was widely expected to pass, despite being opposed by a significant chunk of House Republicans. According to GOP leadership aides, Representative Collin Peterson (D., Minn.), the ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, had promised that there would be 40 Democrats voting for the bill. Peterson was aware that the Southerland Amendment – which permitted states to put in place requirements that food stamps recipients prove they were working or looking for work – was likely to pass.
But when the Southerland Amendment did pass, Democrats changed their minds. “I told [Majority Leader Eric] Cantor that Southerland cost us 15 votes,” Peterson said, per The Hill. “A lot of people came up to me and said, I’m with you, but I’m out now.’” During the motion to recommit, Peterson told Cantor and House whip Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) that he no longer had the votes.
In the final vote, only 24 Democrats voted for the farm bill. Sixty-two Republicans voted against the bill.
“It became clear that the Democrats wanted to blow this up,” said a GOP leadership aide. “They kowtowed towards Nancy Pelosi and the White House rather than the needs of their own districts.”
In a statement, Peterson blamed the GOP, saying, “The farm bill failed to pass the House today because the House Republicans could not control the extreme right wing of their party.”
Another GOP leadership aide fumed that the Democrats hadn’t held up their side of the agreement, noting that Republican leadership had made compromises already.
“There are a lot of conservatives who are not happy with this farm bill,” the aide said. “We’re not happy with this farm bill. We wish that we controlled the White House and the Senate and we could get a farm bill that Republicans all can really get behind, but we also know that we should at least get down to the road to starting to cut some of the spending in the here, get some reforms, work requirements, start putting some of these things in place, so then later on the next time we have to deal with this issue we could even go further.”
“We were going to take some heat ourselves,” the aide added. “And apparently Democrats were unwilling to be adults and handle their own constituency.”