The push for a House farm bill is likely not over, says Lee Hamilton, a 34-year Indiana representative who now directs The Center on Congress at Indiana University. Photo courtesy of The Center on Congress at Indiana University website.
While bringing the farm bill back for a second review by the U.S. House will be difficult, it is far from impossible, a former lawmaker says.
"It becomes more difficult now once you have lost the bill to resurrect it, to bring it back, but it happens," says Lee Hamilton, who served for 34 years as an Indiana representative in the House and is now director of The Center on Congress at Indiana University.
(Click to read: Farm Bill Defeated in U.S. House)
At this point, it is U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s decision whether to bring the bill back for a second time, Hamilton says. It is unusual, but not unheard of, for a bill brought up by the Speaker to be defeated.
"What he has to do is, he has to sit down and figure out why the bill was defeated, and obviously by how many votes, and see if he can make adjustments in the bill that will get a majority support," Hamilton says. That process might take a day or a month, depending on a variety of factors.
Listen below to House Ag Committee ranking member Collin Peterson's remarks following the House vote:
Given the margin of today’s vote, Boehner needs at least 20 lawmakers to reverse their votes to win passage if the bill is brought up a second time, Hamilton says. That task is "not unmanageable." Adding or removing a provision that group of people can agree on might be the key to moving ahead.
(Click to read: Ag Left 'Holding the Bag' by Farm Bill Defeat)
That doesn’t mean hurdles would vanish: Conference committees for both the House and Senate would then have to resolve any differences and approve the legislation, and President Barack Obama would have to sign it into law. But because interests such as farmers, ag organizations and agribusiness are invested in the issue, opportunity still exists.
"I suspect they’ll be working very hard to bring that bill forward again," Hamilton says.
Indeed, Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) of the House Committee on Agriculture appears focused on moving ahead despite saying he is "obviously disappointed" in the 195-234 vote Thursday.
"We are assessing all of our options, but I have no doubt that we will finish our work in the near future and provide the certainty that our farmers, ranchers, and rural constituents need," Lucas says.
His colleague, Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR), agrees.
"While the bill was not perfect, it took significant steps to root out waste and abuse, and reduce our debt while reforming farm programs so they work for the modern agricultural economy," Crawford said in an emailed statement. " This battle is not over yet. I will continue to work with Chairman Lucas, Ranking Member Peterson, and all of my colleagues on the House Agriculture Committee to pass a bill that gives our growers the certainty they urgently need. I am optimistic that Congress will soon remember who makes our country so great – the American farmer."
Separately, the e-mailed containing Crawford's statement offered insights about possible paths for the farm bill: "The House has two options going forward. The Agriculture Committee can craft a new bill or, since the Senate has already passed its version of the reauthorization bill, go to conference with no bill and negotiate without an official position. The latter option is the route the House took last year after it failed to pass a transportation bill."