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Farm bill fails in the House amid Republican infighting over immigration

Farm bill fails in the House amid Republican infighting over immigration
Posted at 9:22 AM, May 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-18 12:22:06-04

After a dramatic lead-up, the House of Representatives failed to pass a massive farm bill as Republicans were unable to shore up support from some of their conservative members amid an ongoing party fight on immigration, despite Republican leaders' confident predictions it would pass just minutes before.

The vote was 198-213.

While Republican leaders said they were confident ahead of the vote, it was clear the bill was in jeopardy, and members of leadership could be seen on the floor holding last-minute negotiations.

Complicating matters was a threat by conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus to withhold their support as they sought to get their desired outcome on an unrelated issue involving immigration. Close to 30 Republicans voted against the bill.

Democrats, meanwhile, rejected the farm bill out of opposition to stricter work requirements in the food stamps program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

The deadline to pass a farm bill is September 30.

Republicans want to require more people to work in order to receive the benefits, extending the mandate to parents of school-age children and to those in their 50s.

That's the main reason why Democrats are rejecting the bill. They worry the new requirements will prove too onerous for some of the very beneficiaries in need of the assistance. Those who fail to work or enroll in job training could be locked out for up to three years.

President Donald Trump voiced support for the bill Thursday in a tweet.

"Tomorrow, the House will vote on a strong Farm Bill, which includes work requirements. We must support our Nation's great farmers!"

The 641-page bill also addresses a range of issues related to agriculture, such as livestock disaster programs, conservation, feral swine, farm loan programs and broadband services in rural areas, just to name a few.

Given that the Senate is working on its own version of a farm bill -- one that has a less stringent approach on SNAP -- it's a foregone conclusion that the House bill, should it pass, won't be the final say on the matter, with a possible House-Senate conference looming to hash out the significant differences.

"There could not be a better time to take action to help more people join our workforce," House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters during a news conference Thursday. "That is why the farm bill that we are debating today is so critical. It sets up a system for SNAP recipients where if you are able to work, you should work to get the benefits. And if you can't work, we'll help you get the training you need."