Home 5 Ag Stories House likely to conclude Farm Bill debate today

House likely to conclude Farm Bill debate today

Photo by Ben Nuelle

AUDIO: Profit Matters 5-18-18

By early Friday afternoon – We will either have a passed House 2018 Farm Bill or House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway will be picking up the pieces and looking at how to find a majority to get his farm bill priorities across the floor of the House intact.

There was a clue as to how the final vote on H.R. 2 may play out today. An amendment that was offered by Alaska Congressman Don Young would exempt all National Forests in Alaska from the U.S. Forest Service Roadless Rule. One lone Democrat stood and challenged the measure during debate. It was called passed by a voice vote, but a recorded vote was asked for and when it came to that vote – for several minutes – the GOP leadership had to leave the vote open as the proposal faced defeat, the vote was 204 in favor and 210 opposed. Representative Young paced back and forth on the floo r- looking for votes – the Republican leadership looked for votes as well – a Democratic Congressman changed their vote (making two Democrats saying aye) and finally the vote stood at 207 for and 208 opposed. For the longest time,  there was no movement. Then you saw the Speaker for the vote stand and a final lawmaker flipped and they instantly called the vote 208 to 207 in favor of the amendment.

If the vote is close, leadership seems intent on getting this measure to pass – complete with the reforms on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the pressure will be on to get to a favorable vote count.

On Thursday, there were two key amendments that were made “In Order” by the Rules Committee that could have turned the farm safety net part of the bill on its head. On back-to-back-to-back votes, Republicans and Democrats combined to thwart challenges to the bill. They defeated an amendment by Representative Virginia Foxx to remove production controls on U.S.-grown sugar, 278-137 and an amendment by Representative Tom McClintock to phase out farm subsidies over the next 12 years, 380-34. There was also a McClintock amendment to apply the 20-hour work requirement to far more SNAP recipients and it was soundly defeated 83 for and 330 opposed.

The key vote of the day, according to Chairman Mike Conaway, was on sugar. “I called in a lot of chits,” he said. Given the frigid inter-party relations over the work requirement, he was surprised when Democrats joined in routing the sugar amendment. “I talked to Conaway for the first time in five weeks. He came and thanked me,” said Representative Collin Peterson, the senior Democrat on the Agriculture Committee. “We delivered.”

For the most part, Democrats provided little help to the Republican majority. They refused almost uniformly to offer amendments or to aid floor consideration of the bill. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said the bill was so flawed that the Agriculture Committee should be told to start over. Democrats tried twice to prevent consideration of the bill, losing both times on party-line votes.

Looking ahead to today – the three dozen members of the small-government House Freedom Caucus threatened to withhold their support from the bill unless GOP leaders agreed to call a vote on an immigration bill. Republicans control the House 235-193 over Democrats, with seven vacant seats. They might not be able to pass a farm bill if more than two dozen members defect.

“I think we’ll get there tomorrow. … Assuming that gets worked out — and I assume it gets done — then we pass it,” Conaway said. “There are no poison pills left on the table.”