Farm Bill Comes to Stunning Defeat in House
While Americans have been understandably focused on important issues such as the Immigration Bill and the Obama administration scandals, on Thursday, by a vote of 195-234, the House defeated the nearly $1 trillion farm subsidy and food stamp bill--known collectively as “The Farm Bill,” in a searing rebuke to House leadership.
The Wall Street Journal refers to the shocking defeat of the farm legislation as a “revolt,” and describes how the House’s more conservative members who believed the bill spends too much money, including Paul Ryan and Jeb Hensarling, joined with Democrats who said the bill did not offer enough in entitlements to bring the legislation to its knees.
The WSJ states that the reason for the surprising defeat of the House farm bill was its “mind-boggling price tag--$740 billion for food stamps and $200 billion for farm payments” and other freebies. The taxpayer-funded farm payment subsidies have been shown to find their way into the pockets of wealthy farm owners, agribusiness lobbyists, and even members of Congress who vote on the bill.
While conservatives note that food stamps have grown to an $80 billion per year program, up by about 70% in less than five years, Democrats called the $2 billion in cuts and the addition of a work requirement in the legislation too severe.
The WSJ observes how out-of-sync the bill’s subsidies were with other American industries:
The bill continued indefensible milk and sugar price supports. Farm payments were not only extended for several more years but price supports were guaranteed at no lower than 85% of current price-support levels, a sweet deal given near-record high commodity prices. What other industry has that kind of revenue guarantee?
Conservatives have been actively supporting reforms to farm bill legislation that finally separate the food stamp program from farm subsidy programs. It is doubtful, however, whether House leaders have tried to convince farm-state Republicans to seriously consider reform. As a result, the legislation proposed by establishment majority members has seemed just a tweak or two away from the Democrat's Senate bill.
Erika Johnsen of Hot Air also agrees that the defeat of the legislation is a shock to the many farm and agribusiness lobbyists who thought the legislation was in the bag:
The many farm and agribusiness lobbyists who were relying on the bill’s passage to safeguard the status quo and their countless specially interested, pork-tossing programs were shocked — righteously, indignantly shocked, I say! — and plan to continue to press the House leadership so that they can get theirs, dammit, no matter how much market distortion and taxpayer money it costs the American economy and budget.
The Hill confirms that lobbyists were beside themselves:
“We were shocked. We were watching the vote on TV and in the final minutes were saying ‘what are they doing? This thing isn’t going to pass!” said one commodity group lobbyist.
“I’m shocked,” said another lobbyist. “Our job as agriculture is to go to the House and say Mr. Speaker what is your plan for getting this done?”...
Lawmakers on the House Agriculture Committee were holding calls and frantic closed-door meetings with lobbyists to discuss their next moves, sources said...
The House bill was heavily backed by commodity groups, from rice and peanut producers in the South to corn, wheat and soy growers in the Midwest to the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union...
The gloom in the official statements from farm organizations was pervasive.