Published June 20, 2013
In a defeat for Republican leadership, the House on Thursday rejected a sweeping farm bill, amid opposition from both sides of the aisle.
More than 60 House Republicans defected and voted against the half-trillion-dollar bill, which sets funding for farm subsidies and other assistance as well as food stamps.
The vote was 234-195 against the bill.
The defeat was not expected. House Speaker John Boehner, who rarely votes, supported the bill. Members stood in silence as they watched the scoreboard Thursday afternoon.
Chamber leaders were facing pressure from both sides. The plan imposes significant cuts to food stamp programs and eliminates direct payments to farmers. It also reworks the dairy program, replacing guaranteed price supports with insurance.
Democrats opposed the cuts to food stamps. But powerful conservative groups -- including the Heritage Foundation, which is led by former Republican Sen. Jim DeMint -- lobbied against some of the bill's remaining and costly farm subsidies. And some Republicans pressed for deeper food stamp cuts.
Sixty-two Republicans voted no, while 24 Democrats voted in favor of the bill.
While Democratic leaders used the defeat to taunt their GOP counterparts, conservative groups in Washington tried to cast the outcome as a positive development -- an opportunity for, in their words, "real reform."
"The time for reform is now. 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. With $17 trillion in debt, the American taxpayers don't have time to wait," Chris Chocola, president of the conservative Club for Growth, said in a statement.
Republican leaders claimed Democrats failed to deliver on promised votes.
"I am very disappointed in (House Democratic Leader) Nancy Pelosi who chose partisanship over progress," House GOP Leader Eric Cantor said.
Pelosi, though, denied the charge, calling the vote "amateur hour." Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, said after the vote "if you over-reach, you get nothing."
Both the food stamp and farm subsidy provisions were contentious.
On the former, the five-year bill would have cut $2 billion annually from food stamps and allowed states to impose broad new work requirements on food stamps. Many Republicans said the cuts were not enough, while Democrats wanted to restore the money and instead slash subsidy payments to farmers.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., sped the chamber through consideration of almost all of lawmakers' 103 amendments to the legislation Wednesday night. The House at one point adopted 38 amendments at once in a single vote.
The House bill, which would cut around $4 billion a year in overall spending on farm and nutrition programs, expands crop insurance programs and creates a new kind of crop insurance that kicks in before farmers' paid policies do.
Boehner has said he has concerns about the overall legislation but wanted to get the farm bill to House and Senate negotiators for a potential deal. Aside from his concerns on the dairy program, he said the change in policy is better than doing nothing.
Lucas says the bill is necessary to avoid farm crises and that it has some of the biggest reforms in decades. It would eliminate $5 billion a year in direct payments, subsidies that are paid to farmers whether they grow crops or not. The measure would also expand crop insurance and make it easier for rice and peanut farmers to collect subsidies.
The Senate 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.
Fox News' Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.