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Support for U.S. House Speaker Wanes with Farm Bill Rejection

June 21, 2013

The vote shows how difficult it will be for Boehner to gain passage of other legislative initiatives, including an immigration law rewrite.

Roxana Tiron, Derek Wallbank and Alan Bjerga

House Speaker John Boehner lost support from more than one-fourth of his Republican colleagues as the chamber rejected a $939 billion agricultural-policy bill, the latest in a series of embarrassments handed to him by his own party.

Sixty-two Republicans joined Democrats in the 195-234 defeat of the measure yesterday. Many members of the speaker’s party opposed the legislation’s crop-subsidy provisions while Democrats were displeased over cuts to the food-stamp program.

The vote shows how difficult it will be for Boehner to gain passage of other legislative initiatives including an immigration law rewrite, raising the nation’s debt limit and changing the tax system. Republicans control the House 234-201.

"It is an embarrassment for the entire Republican conference," Republican strategist John Feehery said in an interview yesterday. "They need to figure out how to legislate this year. If they don’t, it doesn’t bode well for immigration or fiscal negotiations."

The rejection of the farm bill is the latest of several legislative defeats for Boehner. In February 2011, Republicans were seven votes short of extending provisions of the Patriot Act; in September 2011 a temporary spending bill failed when more than 40 Republicans voted against it.

Boehner, an Ohio Republican, had to cancel votes to avoid other losses -- in July 2011 on a bill to raise the nation’s debt ceiling and in December 2012 he scuttled voting on a plan to avoid year-end tax increases and spending cuts.

‘Trust’ Leader

"It’s a failure of followership," said Feehery, who previously served as an aide to former Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert. "You’ve got to trust your leader."

The farm bill, which would benefit crop-buyers such as Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., grocers including Supervalu Inc. and insurers including Wells Fargo & Co. and Ace Ltd, has been working through Congress for almost two years. The current authorization for U.S. Department of Agriculture programs, passed in 2008, was extended last year after the Senate approved a plan and the House declined to consider its own.

The bill approved by the House Agriculture Committee proposed cutting $20.5 billion, or 2.5 percent, from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as food stamps, over 10 years. The provision would tighten eligibility in a way that would drop about 1.8 million people from the program, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

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RELATED TOPICS: Dairy, Policy, 2013 Farm Bill



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