The House's failure to pass a $500 billion five-year farm bill backed by GOP leaders is being seen as a major blow to Speaker John Boehner, who publicly supported the bill.
Members defeated the bill in a 234 to 195 vote, with 62 Republicans siding against the party leadership and voting no and just 24 Democrats voting for it.
Most Democrats voted against the bill because it cut food stamp programs by more than $20 billion, while many Republicans said it was too expensive a bill when the country has $17 trillion in debt, reports The Hill
Boehner, who cast a vote in favor of the bill, told the publication after the vote, "The Democrats walked away from this." Republicans said they had been promised 40 votes from across the aisle. However, even that number would not have been enough.
Several GOP committee chairmen voted against the bill
as well, including Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. He was joined by the chairmen of the Financial Services Committee, Jeb Hensarling of Texas; Transportation Committee, Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania; Veterans Affairs Committee, Jeff Miller of Florida; and Foreign Affairs Committee, Ed Royce of California.
Boehner took the rare step of voting in favor of the bill — the speaker usually abstains — which was seen as weakening him even further.
And in the aftermath of the vote, many pointed to Boehner's inability to control the right wing of his party. Powerful conservative groups — including the Heritage Foundation, which is led by former Republican Sen. Jim DeMint — had lobbied against some of the bill's costly farm subsidies.
Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint tweeted
after the vote, "The lesson here is that when the American people are informed and engaged, we can get our country back on the right track."
Conservative activist Erick Erickson also tweeted, saying, "Does John Boehner have any clout left after publicly saying he would take the rare act as Speaker of voting for the farm bill?"
Erickson then pointedly asked, "Pasture time?"
"We can't even do a f****** farm bill," one GOP lawmaker told The Hill, saying he predicted the House Republican approval rating would fall further.
The failure also renewed questions about Boehner's ability to lead his party on other key issues such as immigration reform. In a private meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Wednesday, Boehner cited the farm bill process to describe how he intended to move immigration legislation through the House, according to The Hill.
Boehner has said he will not bring a bipartisan reform bill to the House floor if the majority of his party opposes it, but not all of his party is convinced.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacker, of California said Boehner should lose his leadership
if he breaks his promises on immigration. "I would consider that a betrayal of the Republican members of the House and a betrayal of the Republicans throughout the country," he said in a radio interview Monday.
"If Boehner moves forward and permits this to come to a vote even though the majority of Republicans in the House — and that's if they do — oppose what's coming to a vote, he should be removed as speaker."
But Rep. Steve King of Iowa, who is on both the House Judiciary Committee that handles immigration and the Agriculture Committee, told reporters after the vote that the two issues are not comparable.
"I've been right in the middle of both of these issues and over the last 48 hours I've done nothing but farm bill and immigration," he said.
"But I didn't equate the two in leadership in that. I just didn't. I think they worked to whip this bill, and I watched as the leadership team had their finger on the pulse of a lot of the votes. In the end, I think it just blew up."
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