State Ag Secretary Bill Northey says it will now be a “much heavier lift” to get a Farm Bill passed in the U.S. House. A coalition of Democrats and Republicans joined today to defeat the Farm Bill by a 195 to 234 vote.
“This was a real surprise,” Northey said during an interview with Radio Iowa. “I think most of us thought this was going to pass, so there wasn’t a lot of thought about what would happen if it doesn’t, so I think there’s a lot of trying to figure out what this means.”
Northey, a Republican who farms near Spirit Lake, said the Farm Billi is a “complicated piece of legislation” and it requires a bit of a tight-rope walk to build the bipartisan coalition necessary to get it passed.
“Inherently, there are some Republicans that are not going to vote for a Farm Bill and the challenge is being able to have a bill that can appeal across the aisle to enough Democrats to replace those Republicans and get enough to get a majority,” Northey said.
Conservative Republicans say the Farm Bill is loaded with excessive spending, while many Democrats object to cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called “food stamps.” Northey said the farm community is hopeful “clear eyes” will take a look at what happened in the House and find a way to make changes that would accommodate some of the concerns — and round up enough votes to pass it.
“To defeat it is one thing, to come back with something that can pass…that’s a much heavier lift,” Northey said.
But Northey warned that even if some version of the Farm Bill clears the House, it’s not clear sailing because a group of House and Senate members will have to draft a compromise Farm Bill that can win approval in both the Republican-led House and the U.S.Senate where Democrats control the debate agenda.
“There’s plenty of corners that could hang up this Farm Bill even if we could get it passed the House at some point,” Northey told Radio Iowa.
The 2008 Farm Bill expired last fall, but congress passed a one-year extension, putting pressure on lawmakers to get something done by September 30.
All four Iowa congressmen voted for the new, five-year Farm Bill today.
Republican Congressman Tom Latham issued a statement, saying he has “real frustration with members of both parties” who blocked the bill’s progress, although Latham did note that “three out of four House Republicans” voted for the bill, while “barely one in ten House Democrats” did. Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley said yesterday’s vote was “Washington at its worst.”
(Read the statements from Latham and Braley here.)
Before the vote, Republican Congressman Steve King pointed to cuts and reforms in the food stamp program that were outlined in the Farm Bill and called that a “solid start to solving Washington’s spending problem.” King also noted the version of the Farm Bill that was being considered in the House cut federal spending on traditional commodity programs by 36 percent. (Read King’s op/ed here.)