House Farm Bill Fails Due to Unrelated Immigration Skirmish

May 18, 2018

House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway took H.R. 2, the 2018 Farm Bill, to the House floor last week, but the five-year, $867 billion bill was rejected in a 198-213 vote.

After two hearings, the House Rules Committee cleared 31 amendments to be considered on the House floor.  One amendment from Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (NC) has caused significant concerns among Republicans. The amendment would eliminate production limits that help keep domestic sugar prices high. This amendment was said to jeopardize all farm supports. Another controversial amendment came from Congressman Tom McClintock from California. The amendment would phase out payments made by the Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs as well as eliminate crop insurance premiums. Both amendments failed by recorded vote. Congressman Dave Brat (VA) had prepared an amendment that would establish restrictions and requirements for checkoff programs. The amendment would have prohibited contracts with any party that engages in advocacy on agricultural issues. More than 40 agricultural organizations including UEP sent letters to Chairman Conaway (TX) and Ranking Member Peterson (MN) asking that Members oppose the amendment.  Prior to the final vote, the amendment was pulled due to significant pressure from Chairman Conaway.

New SNAP work requirements included in the bill brought united Democratic opposition to a traditionally bipartisan bill. However, a problem even larger surfaced at the end of floor debate when Conservative House Members of the Freedom Caucus decided to vote against the farm bill as leverage for a bipartisan immigration bill. Republican moderates in blue-leaning districts joined Democrats to force a vote on an immigration bill that is friendlier to Dreamers. In response, Republican Conservatives wanted a vote on curbing immigration and building a wall.  In the end, 30 Conservative Republican Members joined Democrats in opposition during the final vote. With 183 Democratic votes and 30 Republican votes, including Speaker Ryan's "no" vote to preserve the right for a motion to reconsider, the bill failed.

Following the vote, Speaker Ryan's motion to reconsider the bill was delayed and could possibly resurface this week. The future of the bill is unknown and Republican lawmakers are discussing ways to revive the bill.  A re-vote could entirely depend on whether GOP leaders agree to vote on an immigration bill.