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Republicans Join With Democrats to Defeat Anti-Food Stamps and Cockfighting Bill

WASHINGTON – The House rejected its own Republican version of the farm bill (H.R. 2—Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018) May 18 by a vote of 198 to 213.

For House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-WI, and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-TX, it was a stunning defeat for producing what they thought was a moderate piece of legislation.

It was a victory, however, for Rep. Mark Meadows, R-NC, and conservative chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, who led 30 Republicans to join all the Democrats in rejecting the farm bill.

The Freedom Caucus sought a rejection of the farm bill until after a vote is held on an immigration bill, likely the one sponsored by former Agriculture Committee chairman and current House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-VA.

Ryan tried to convince Meadows the immigration bill would reach the House floor in June if the Freedom Caucus backed the farm bill.

The Freedom Caucus nixed that idea, even though the House Rules Committee website indicates other legislation—such as Right To Try, defense reauthorization, and regulatory relief—is likely to be debated prior to the House’s lengthy Memorial Day break in a week.

“It’s not a fatal blow, it’s just a reorganize,” Meadows was quoted in Politico. “I think at this point we just really need to deal with immigration in an effective way.”

The Freedom Caucus’s action is a near repeat performance of the last farm bill debate five years ago, when conservatives in 2012 attempted to divide the nutrition title from the rest of the farm bill. It caused a lengthy delay in passage of the farm bill, including a continuation of the 2008 farm bill.

The action by conservatives upset voters in the Kansas 1st District to the point where they removed the incumbent at the time, Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-KS, and replaced him with Rep. Roger Marshall, R-KS, who supported the current bill.

With the Freedom Caucus dustup, the farm bill is likely on a related path to trouble this year, even though Republicans led by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-WI, see the farm bill—with its inclusion of work requirements for recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program payments—as a final flourish to his tax and social change agenda before he leaves office in January.

Conaway said in a statement, “We experienced a setback today after a streak of victories all week. We may be down, but we are not out. We will deliver a strong, new farm bill on time as the President of the United States has called on us to do. Our nation’s farmers and ranchers and rural America deserve nothing less.”

Rep. Frank Lucas, R-OK, who was chairman of the House Agriculture Committee during the last farm bill debate, said in a statement, “I am disappointed that the House has failed to pass the 2018 farm bill. This legislation builds upon the successes of the 2014 farm bill by protecting the safety net for producers and ensuring our fellow citizens have access to affordable, high quality food.

Low commodity prices have created a challenging environment for our country’s farmers and ranchers so the farm safety net is more important than ever in providing producers with much-needed economic certainty.

“For the sake of farmers and ranchers across rural America and the consumers who rely on access to safe and affordable products, we must begin the farm bill process in a timely manner. The previous farm bill presented similar challenges, and I am committed to continuing a dialogue with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to move this process forward.”

Ranking Member Collin Peterson said in a statement, “It’s unfortunate the Republicans chose to take this path, and it’s clear from their inability to get the necessary votes from within their own caucus that there are internal fractures they have to contend with. But this is a good opportunity for us to return to the table and fix this bill before we move forward.

“As I said in my remarks (May 16), this job is too big for one party. Let’s come together and figure out a bill that works for everyone. We don’t have to let this process be held hostage by the demands of the extremes of our parties. We can and should take the time to get the farm bill right.”

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a statement, “A farm bill is necessary to provide our farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers with the stability and predictability they need. Our farmers feed the people of this nation and the world, and they deserve the certainty of a farm bill.”

The current farm bill expires Sept. 30.

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John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy has been reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands since 1989. He is originally from Detroit, Michigan.

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