How Food Stamps Killed the Farm Bill

Florida Rep. Steve Southerland's amendment made the bill unpalatable to most Democrats.

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The House of Representatives’ farm bill was crammed with so many questionable giveaways that watchdogs couldn’t decide which was the worst. In the end, however, it wasn’t sushi subsidies or millions of dollars of weather radio transmitters that killed the farm bill Thursday afternoon. It was a controversial amendment backed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

At 12:14 p.m., the House opened debate on an amendment introduced by Florida Republican Steve Southerland that would have allowed states to increase work requirements for citizens to receive food stamps. Shortly after, Cantor spoke on the floor in support of the amendment. While there were more than 100 amendments debated over the two days of deliberations, Southerland’s amendment was the first and only that prompted Cantor to take to the floor.

At 1:22 p.m., the Southerland amendment was approved in a near-party-line vote, 227 to 198. Only one Democrat went for the amendment, and only six Republicans went against. It was a partisan poison pill, the last amendment of the day. And it was enough to kill the measure.

At 1:54 p.m., the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act, colloquially known as the farm bill, was defeated 234 to 195, with 24 Democrats backing the legislation and 62 Republicans voting against it. It was the last in a series of embarrassing defeats for the House Republican leadership, who have struggled for three years to corral the conservative wing of their conference.

After the vote, Minnesota Representative Collin Peterson, the senior Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, said, “The farm bill failed to pass the House today because the House Republicans could not control the extreme right wing of their party.” When asked if the Southerland amendment was specifically what sunk the bill, Liz Friedlander, a spokeswoman for Peterson, told TIME: “I think that’s fair to say.”

“We were over 40 and we ended up…at 24,” Peterson told the Hill.

Cantor blamed the Democrats. “I’m extremely disappointed that Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leadership have at the last minute chosen to derail years of bipartisan work on the Farm Bill and related reforms,” said Cantor in a statement. “This bill was far from perfect, but the only way to achieve meaningful reform, such as Congressman Southerland’s amendment reforming the food stamp program, was in conference.”

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi hit back, blaming House Republicans for their inability to whip the vote. “What is happening on the floor today was major amateur hour,” said Pelosi, who passed a farm bill herself as speaker in 2007 with just 19 Republican votes at the time. “They didn’t get results and they put the blame on somebody else.”

Some outside conservatives cheered the defeat of the farm bill. “The lesson here is that when the American people are informed and engaged, we can get our country back on the right track,” Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint tweeted Thursday.

But the defeat disappointed farmers like Dee Vaughan, a Texan corn farmer, who told TIME he was “very disappointed. Farmers need the certainty of getting a bill passed. These one year extensions”–which is what Congress has been operating under for the past year since the five-year 2008 farm bill expired–“just don’t allow you to make the capital improvements you have to make from time to time.”

Before the final vote on the House floor, Republican Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, the House Agriculture Committee Chairman, told his colleagues that he “can’t guarantee” that he could resurrect the bill this session, and implored his colleagues to vote with him. “Vote with me,” he said, his voice cracking. “And if you don’t, when you leave here they’ll just say it’s a dysfunctional body, a broken body, a dysfunctional institution. That’s not true.”

32 comments
Kevin_byDesign
Kevin_byDesign

Its Ironic how fundamentalist christians in the GOP don't want to include Food Stamps in the Farm BIll ~Yet they give Free tax payer  money to already profitable, Global AG Businesses?  Perhaps they should re-read Matthew 2:26.  

 It's a metaphoric parable, about how the Lord takes care of the birds of the field;  that can neither sow ,or toil,  or store their grain in barns ;  yet he feeds them gladly.  ... These "Christians"  in our Congress & Senate are  so unlike their "Christ". 

 What should we expect from people who believe the world is 6K years old, climate change is a hoax and virgin births are real....Maybe they don't know a parable represents an abstract ideal, that  applies to real lives.  In other words;  the "birds" are the poor;  they deserve to be fed, even if they can't, or don't toil, or sow, or store grains in barns... Money Changing Christians now occupy our Temple's of Government. If Jesus was around he would be kicking some butt and making sure the poor had food stamps.      

MeredithO'Donnell
MeredithO'Donnell

At 1:22 p.m., the Southerland amendment was approved in a near-party-line vote, 227 to 198.

I'd really like to know how many of those 226 republicans that voted FOR the last amendment, then voted AGAINST the bill in its entirety.  Seems to me the only reason to do that is to create a failed bill situation to blame the democrats for.  Dirty politics

Hermione
Hermione

Our leaders are an embarrassment.

I can understand requesting food stamp recipients try to find work, okay okay.  But obviously it is too hard to expect politicians to take a pay cut, for a job NOT well done.

bobcn
bobcn

For the benefit of those who are confused about this -- expecting the wealthy to pay their fair share is not 'class warfare'.  This is.

jmac
jmac

Sixty-four Republicans voted against the bill.  Sixty-four Republicans didn't think the cuts were severe enough.  

Republicans killed the farm bill.  

grape_crush
grape_crush

 > Cantor blamed the Democrats

Well, that's something he's never done before.

> “What is happening on the floor today was major amateur hour,” said Pelosi, [...] “They didn’t get results and they put the blame on somebody else.”

Cantor tried to sneak on over on the Dems (and probably members of his own party) and got smacked down for doing so.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

As always, kudos Weakest Speaker of our Times. 

MrObvious
MrObvious

Can't give big agro enough without also kicking on the most poor among us. GOP style.

Tommy34684
Tommy34684

Michigan seemed to partially solve the Food Stamp problem by capping the payout at 48 months unless extreme circumstances were at play.  As I see it the same should be considered for Bush's, not Obama's by the way, free cellphone program. Why it is every taxpayer knows the program is out of control and yet Boehner et al do nothing about it? Let's go back to landlines, one phone per household asap.

PerryWhite1
PerryWhite1

@grape_crush And Cantor is the No. 2 in the House GOP. His effort not only killed the bill, but also made the No. 1 look bad. Hmm.

Hermione
Hermione

I admit, I am somewhat at a loss on that one.

Our elected leaders have NO problem in expecting the taxpayers of this country to pay for this stupid war on drugs.  If we didn't have this war on marijuana, this country would not be so far into debt, and more people could qualify for employment, even at fast-food jobs.

CommonSenseFloridian
CommonSenseFloridian

@MrObvious And the Democrats just giving EVERYTHING away to EVERYBODY is the acceptable alternative?  Quit playing politics. The bill was a pork-filled disaster.  Any bill that Progressive Republicans and Marxist Democrats favor should be defeated.  I'm glad the so-called "extremist" Tea Party Republicans are there to put a stop to business as usual - and you should be, too.

tom.litton
tom.litton

@tkulaga Instead of limiting the payout, wouldn't it be much better to invest in stronger jobs programs?   If you just cut them off, then that will have other social and economic costs.  With a jobs program you could easily raise more money in additional taxes then it would cost to run the program (not to mention the lower cost for food stamps, welfare, etc).

MrObvious
MrObvious

@tkulaga 


Free cellphone blah blah blah. How to spot ignorant 'wingers? How they talk about a program that started under Reagan. Ironically most of the fraud under the program have been discovered under Obama.

outsider
outsider

@tkulaga 


That's a good idea in theory - but it'll never go backwards. 

A lesson that the Repubs have a hard time learning is that you can't turn the clock back. 

This bill could have passed - but the food stamps killed it. If they'd have left that well enough alone (explain to me why sushi subsidies are ok, but people who are starving can't eat isn't) then the bill would have passed. 


The GOP, again, played politics. And again lost. It's that simple. 


That isn't to say the Dems didn't play politics - obviously food stamps is part of the dem platform. But it also happens to be what people (some people) need. 


As opposed to the aforementioned sushi subsidies and weather radio transmitters. 

MrObvious
MrObvious

@CommonSenseFloridian @MrObvious 

That's ironic, he largesse in the bill is not food stamps, it's the pure give away to big agro already raking in billions. So not only do they make a profit selling their products, but they also get money directly out your my and your pocket.

But making sure poor people have food on their table, well thats giving way EVERYTHING away to EVERYBODY.

I dunno, I rather not starve poor people. I rather deny corporations leeching of tax payers.

yogi
yogi

What is a progressive republican? Can you give a modern day example of one?

MrObvious
MrObvious

@tom.litton @tkulaga 

I'm all for providing better jobs rather then paying someone not to starve. But you know that not only do 'wingers want to kick on poor, but they want to ensure they make even less.

outsider
outsider

@tom.litton @tkulaga 


That's a good idea in general, not just for the above mentioned reason. For any reason you want - congress should be focused on jobs. 

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

@manlyman Ick.

 Between the over compensation and the name calling and now thinking of me with my pants off you've become a bit too creepy.


manlyman
manlyman

Skin a little thin pauline? Did I hurt you're wittle feelings? Put your guy pants on.

manlyman
manlyman

The statistical facts I see are everything pointing downwards. You can talk till you're blue in the face but liberal ideas have only pushed us in the opposite direction of which you claim. Liberalism has never worked. Period, and I defy you to prove otherwise. You can't, so save your links and all that garbarge. When things get better we feel it and see it without being told. And by the way who are the richest countries? Liberals always love to talk about other countries.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

@manlyman You asked a question, I answered the question including a link. Thus you become abusive

Adding-your choice of name, and name calling "pauline"?, is telling. And likely explains your anger. 

MrObvious
MrObvious

@manlyman 

Liberals want to ensure a free regulated market for everyone, where an employer have to pay labor for their hard work.

'Wingers don't. The real word? Look at the real word - the richest countries also have a strong middle class protected by 'liberal' labor laws.

The weakest don't.

Our country is slowly sliding down the scale as 'wingers chip away and worker rights.

Those are statistically facts. So yes - liberal ideas make the world stronger; it provides rights and a strong middle class that can spend money. Money that increase the pool of rich. Where there is a weak middle class there's also a small pool of super rich and a judicial and political environment bent towards people with all the resources.

So if you had an honest bone in your body you'd look at the actual world and the statistical facts rather then guessing based on political ideology.

manlyman
manlyman

Yes I am questioning it. You would too if you had an honest bone in your body. Employers should be allowed to pay their help whatever they feel they're worth, and if the worker isn't happy with it there's no law that says they can't look elsewhere for a job. Too simple? Too harsh? Then tell me what works. The liberal ideas don't seem to be accoplishing a damn thing, other then more poverty and if you looked at the real world instead of getting your facts from WaPo you'd see it. Ah but you know this already pauline. What's really at the root of you're ideology? What is it that makes you come on here and spout crap that you know is dead wrong and bad for the world?

manlyman
manlyman

You need to expand on that obby, provide some proof of it, or I'm gonna have to assume you're either an idiot or a blatant liar. Liberals need the poor to stay in power, the more poor and uninformed, the more votes, it's just that simple.