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Next Step for House Farm Bill: Uncertainty

Uncertainty prevails after surprising defeat of farm bill on House floor. The proposed House farm bill was defeated in a vote of 195-234, with only 24 Democratic members voting for the measure. The bill didn't even draw a majority of the House Agriculture Committee's Democrats – just nine of the committee's 21 Democrats voted for the bill; all but one of the panel's 25 Republicans, Bob Goodlatte (Va.), voted for passage. The Democratic tally was below the 30 to 40 votes some said House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) had indicated to GOP leadership. But given the final vote count, even 40 Democratic votes wouldn’t have put the bill in the win column. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and his aides said that their count was right on target, and they could’ve flipped more lawmakers if the vote was close. Peterson insisted that he never gave a specific number of votes to leadership. “I couldn't get people to give me a final answer,” Peterson said. “[My Caucus] wanted to see where the amendments were, so when the (Rep. Bob) Goodlatte (R-Va.) dairy amendment passed that was a problem, and when the (Rep. Steve) Southerland (R-Fla.) food stamp amendment passed that was a problem,” he said. Overall, 171 Republicans voted for the measure and 62 opposed it -- one out of every four GOP members. Among Democrats, just 24 were in favor and 172 opposed. Many Democrats had complained the bill cut too deeply into the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, while Republican opposition focused on the bill's cost and the need for more changes in SNAP. Democrats in the chamber cheered when it became clear that the bill would fail. GOP leaders blamed Democrats and insisted their whip counts were accurate, even as Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who helped whip support for the bill, said he was surprised at the 62 GOP defections. “I was surprised by about half of them,” he said. “I thought they would have taken more of a 10,000-foot view.” In a private meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) cited the farm bill process to describe how he intended to move immigration reform through the House – a process some may now question.

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