WASHINGTON (AP) — The House rejected a five-year,
half-trillion-dollar farm bill Thursday that would have
cut $2 billion annually from food stamps and let states
impose broad new work requirements on those who receive
Those cuts weren't deep
enough for many Republicans who objected to the cost of
the nearly $80 billion-a-year food stamp program, which
has doubled in the past five years. The vote was 234-195
against the bill, with 62 Republicans voting against it.
The bill also suffered
from lack of Democratic support necessary for the
traditionally bipartisan farm bill to pass. Only 24
Democrats voted in favor of the legislation after many
said the food stamp cuts could remove as many as 2
million needy recipients from the rolls. The addition of
the optional state work requirements by Republican
amendment just before final passage turned away many
remaining Democratic votes.
Majority Leader Eric
Cantor, R-Va., and No. 2 Democrat Steny Hoyer of
Maryland, both of whom voted for the bill, immediately
took to the House floor and blamed the other's party for
Cantor said it was a
"disappointing day" and that Democrats had been a
Hoyer suggested that
Republicans voted for the food stamp work requirements
to tank the bill.
"What happened today is
you turned a bipartisan bill, necessary for our farmers,
necessary for our consumers, necessary for the people of
America, that many of us would have supported, and you
turned it into a partisan bill," he said.
The Senate overwhelmingly
passed its version of the farm bill last week, with
about $2.4 billion a year in overall cuts and a $400
million annual decrease in food stamps — one-fifth of
the House bill's food stamp cuts. The White House was
supportive of the Senate version but had issued a veto
threat of the House bill.
If the two chambers
cannot come together on a bill, farm-state lawmakers
could push for an extension of the 2008 farm bill that
expires in September or negotiate a new bill with the
Senate and try again.
Some conservatives have
suggested separating the farm programs and the food
stamps into separate bills. Farm-state lawmakers have
for decades added food stamps to farm bills to garner
urban votes for the rural bill. But that marriage has
made passage harder this year.
Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said Thursday
that the committee is assessing all its options and will
continue its work in the "near future."
Just before the vote,
Lucas pleaded for his colleagues' support, saying that
if the measure didn't pass people would use it as an
example of a dysfunctional Congress.
"If it fails today I
can't guarantee you'll see in this Congress another
attempt," he said.
Minnesota Rep. Collin
Peterson, the senior Democrat on the House Agriculture
Committee, said he believes the work requirements and a
vote that scuttled a proposed dairy overhaul turned too
many lawmakers against the measure.
"I had a bunch of people
come up to me and say I was with you but this is it, I'm
done," Peterson said after the vote.
House Speaker John
Boehner, R-Ohio, voted for the bill but lobbied for the
dairy amendment that caused some dairy-state lawmakers
to eventually turn on the legislation. Cantor vocally
supported the amendment that imposed the work
requirements, coming to the House floor just before that
vote and the final vote to endorse it.
Though passage has been
in the balance all week, the vote against the bill was
larger than many expected. When the final vote count was
read, House Democrats cheered loudly, led by members of
the Congressional Black Caucus who had fought the food
The defeat is also a
major victory for conservative taxpayer groups and
environmental groups who have unsuccessfully worked
against the bill for years. Those groups have
aggressively lobbied lawmakers in recent weeks, hoping
to capitalize on the more than 200 new members of the
House since the last farm bill passed five years ago.
Many of those new members are conservative Republicans
who replaced moderate rural Democrats who had championed
Those groups were
emboldened after the vote.
"We need to put farm
subsidies on a path to elimination and we need to
devolve food stamps to the state level where they
belong," said Chris Chocola, president of the
conservative advocacy group Club for Growth.