Immigration issue to blame for farm bill's failure

Monday, May 21, 2018
Chris Woodward (

farmer plowingWhile the House was not able to come together last week and approve a farm bill, it will happen. But one conservative wonders if Republicans are listening.

The House Freedom Caucus (HFC) wanted a vote on immigration policy. When that did not happen, the Freedom Caucus did not support the farm bill, and it failed after a vote of 198 to 213.

"The leadership cannot punish them now because they do present such a significant voting bloc," says Rachel Bovard of the Conservative Partnership Institute. "The farm bill will be brought up again, but in the meantime, there will be some furious rounds of negotiating between the leadership, the HFC to get to a middle ground, to get to a place that makes both sides happy. And then I assume the farm bill will pass at that point."


As for the Senate, the chamber is expected to want its own bill, and Bovard says senators are likely paying attention to some of the issues that have been raised in the House, which also include spending and work requirements for food stamps.

"Unfortunately, I don't think the farm bill is on a lot of minds in the Senate at this point," she adds. "But what they will notice is why the farm bill went down, and that's because of the immigration issue. And I think that may become a pressing question for the Senate as well before the mid-terms, just like it's going to in the House."

If, for some reason, the House and Senate cannot come together on a farm bill, the chambers will approve a temporary extension of the Obama-era bill.

'Separate the greedy from the needy'

Project 21, a network of black conservatives, supports language in the defeated bill that requires able-bodied adults on food stamps to work, train, or volunteer.

"The farm bill is all but a must-pass piece of legislation – and even though there are procedural problems in moving forward, it isn't something that's going to have to be let go," says Project 21 co-chair Horace Cooper.


"Our concern isn't the specific 'everything about the farm bill,' but the specific change that ensures that people who are receiving benefits and who are able-bodied actually are going to be required [to work, train, or volunteer]," he continues. "I know that that has had some controversy, but mostly from progressives. That's not in any way a contributor to the change in direction temporarily with the bill."

In a press release, Cooper says "we don't live in a world of unlimited resources [and] we absolutely must separate out the greedy from the needy. When those who are able to provide for themselves are not competing for help, the truly needy will find that substantially greater resources remain."

Eventually, says Cooper, Americans will see a farm bill passed – and he's hopeful it will be consistent with his group's "Blueprint for a Better Deal for Black America."

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