House agriculture, food stamp legislation buckles over immigration enforcement

The House on Friday rejected a five-year agriculture bill after GOP leaders were unable to win support among conservative caucus members who balked at the inclusion of an immigration measure in the proposed legislation.

Thirty Republicans joined Democrats to defeat the Agriculture and Nutrition Act by a count of 198–213.

The measure failed mainly as a result of the Freedom Caucus’ demand Congress take up an immigration measure opposed by House GOP moderates.

Instead of including the immigration proposal in the $867 billion legislation, the Freedom Caucus insisted a separate voted be held on a proposal to toughen immigration and enhance enforcement measures.

“It’s not a fatal blow, it’s just a reorganize.  I think at this point we just really need to deal with immigration in an effective way,” Freedom Caucus leader Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said after the vote.

Echoing Meadows’ words was House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who had reached out to Freedom Caucus members and vowed to address their immigration concerns later this summer.

“We’re not done with this.  We’re going to continue until we get it done,” Scalise told reporters after the bill’s defeat.

Some conservatives had also expressed opposition to the bill over its support for farm subsidies, particularly a continuation of government-backs loans for sugar producers.

The majority of Republicans favored the bill, however, largely because of tighter restrictions on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, although some moderates opposed the reform.

Under the GOP bill, able-bodied SNAP recipients between 18–59 without children would have been required to work at least 20 hours a week to remain eligible the receive benefits.

A move Democrats opposed, the measure increased the eligibility age from 49 to 59. If SNAP provisions are removed, the bill may have garnered the support of liberal House members.

Congress has until Sept. 30 to pass another bill of funding will lapse for farm subsidies and the food stamp program.

Following the bill’s defeat, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) made a motion to bring the bill back for a vote, but no vote was scheduled.  House leadership is hopeful the bill will brought to the floor again next week.


[Politico] [Reuters] [Photo courtesy Financial Times/AP]