Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

Conservatives May Withhold Support in Farm Bill Revote

June 18, 2018 Teaganne Finn
  • Deadline for revote on farm bill June 22
  • Freedom Caucus members won’t commit to backing bill

Conservative lawmakers remain non-committal a week before the deadline to revive the House farm bill after its May defeat over an unrelated immigration bill and tighter eligibility rules for federal food assistance.

Rep. David Brat (R-Va.), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, told reporters June 15 that he was still undecided on whether to support the farm bill.

“I’m not there yet, we’ll see,” said Brat, who declined to share if it was the immigration legislation or food assistance work requirement provisions holding him back from the decision.

The farm bill (H.R. 2) was defeated 198-213 after 30 Republicans joined all Democrats in opposition. The caucus sought to use its votes against the farm bill as leverage to press for action on Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte‘s (R-Va.) immigration bill (H.R. 4760). The measure would provide temporary and renewable status to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. The immigrants, known as “Dreamers,” would not get a path to citizenship.

The House deadline to vote on a motion to reconsider the farm bill was extended to June 22. House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas), told reporters that leadership assured him the farm bill would get another chance after votes on two immigration bills next week. He acknowledged the vote would be tight.

The farm bill would reauthorize various commodity, trade, rural development, agricultural research, and food and nutrition programs. Under the current farm law (Public Law No. 113-79), program authorizations will expire Sept. 30 or the end of the applicable crop year.

Chairman Garners Support

Conaway told Bloomberg Government after a June 15 meeting with Republican committee members that he has had “good comments from several” lawmakers, including “a couple who are leaning.”

“We’re just setting the table for next week,” Conaway said. “We’re going to need their help to circulate around through the members who voted no and the folks who were not here.”

Among those who voted “no” was Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who told reporters this week he’d be willing to support the farm bill if he gets a vote on the Goodlatte measure.

“Right now, if there’s a vote on Goodlatte, and a vote on Goodlatte was specifically what I asked for and in keeping with that, I’d be compelled to vote for the farm bill.,” Meadows told Bloomberg Government.

House Republicans released a compromise immigration measure June 14, in addition to the Goodlatte bill. The bill includes other provisions almost certain to be rejected by Democrats, including money for a border wall and new limits on family-based immigration.

Senate Seeks Floor Time

Meanwhile, the Senate Agriculture Committee advanced its draft farm bill this week and it could be on the floor by the end of the month.

The Senate “will turn to the farm bill before July Fourth,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said June 13 during committee markup of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. The draft bill was approved on a 20-1 vote.

Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) was given two days of floor time the last week of June, Conaway said.

“That way we’ll have ours done and they’ll have theirs done and then we would have July, August, September to conference,” Conaway said. “That’d be great.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Teaganne Finn in Washington at tfinn@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at phendrie@bgov.com; John R. Kirkland at jkirkland@bgov.com

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