Friday, May 18, 2018
WASHINGTON (AP) — In an embarrassment for House Republican leaders, conservatives today scuttled a bill that combines stricter work and job-training requirements for food-stamp recipients with a renewal of farm subsidies popular in GOP-leaning farm country.
Hard-right conservatives upset over the party's stalled immigration agenda opposed the measure, which failed by a 213-198 vote. Some 30 Republicans joined with every chamber Democrat in opposition.
The vote was a blow to GOP leaders, who had hoped to tout its new work requirements for recipients of food stamps. The work initiative polls well with voters, especially those in the GOP political base.
More broadly, it exposed fissures within the party in the months before the midterm elections, and the Freedom Caucus tactics rubbed many rank-and-file Republicans the wrong way. A handful of GOP moderates opposed the bill, too, but not enough to sink it on their own.
"You judge each piece of legislation on its own," said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla. "You don't hold one thing hostage for something that's totally different and has nothing to do with it. I would say that's a mistake in my view."
Key conservatives in the rebellious House Freedom Caucus opposed the measure, seeking leverage to win procedural advantages to in a debate on immigration next month. Negotiations with GOP leaders Friday morning failed to bear fruit, however, and the unrelated food and farm measure was defeated.
Conservative Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said some members had concerns over the farm bill, but said, "That wasn't my main focus. My main focus was making sure we do immigration policy right" and "actually build a border security wall."
Beyond the drama and infighting among Republicans, the debacle appears to make it even more likely that Congress will simply extend the current farm bill when it expires in September.