Vote on farm bill too close to call
submitted 1 year, 8 months ago by dbalachandran

VOTE ON FARM BILL TOO CLOSE TO CALL: The House may vote again on the farm bill today … or tomorrow. Just one day from the deadline to reconsider the measure that failed last month, it’s still unclear what the next step is for the sweeping farm and nutrition policy legislation, report Pro Ag’s Helena Bottemiller Evich and Liz Crampton this morning.

The bill’s second shot has been hugely overshadowed by House Republicans’ duel over immigration. GOP leadership is planning to bring an immigration bill from Rep. Bob Goodlatte to the floor today — a condition of farm bill support from the Freedom Caucus, the conservative coalition that helped defeat it the first time round. Once that’s done, the farm bill could be voted upon immediately — or it could be kicked to Friday.

The sooner, the better: House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway is pushing hard to have the vote today, a strategy he thinks will result in more “yes” votes since more members are likely to still be in town. But he acknowledges the tally will come down to the wire. “I think I’ve got the votes for it, but until all those green lights go up that outnumber the red lights I’m going to be a little nervous,” the Texas Republican said Wednesday.

Our own whip count: A POLITICO analysis of the roll call vote from May 18, when the bill went down 198 to 213, shows that Conaway has a narrow path to 215 (the number needed to pass a bill is lower due to several vacancies). Democrats unanimously voted against H.R. 2 (115), but it was the 30 Republican votes that ultimately tanked the bill (it’s really 29 no votes, since House Speaker Paul Ryan logged a no vote for procedural reasons).

GOP moderates are key: While the Freedom Caucus was widely blamed for the Republican split — and their withholding was crucial — the roster of 29 no’s also included more than a dozen more moderate Republicans including Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, John Katko of New York and Darrell Issa of California.

Assuming that all lawmakers on both sides of the aisle show up and members vote the same way they did last time, Conaway would need to pick up 17 votes to get to a majority.

Conveniently, there were 17 members that didn’t cast ballots during the last go around — but 10 are Democrats and seven are Republicans. POLITICO has confirmed that at least two of the Republicans who didn’t vote last time plan to vote yes, including Reps. Kevin Yoder of Kansas and Hal Rogers of Kentucky. Rep. David Valadao of California, a longtime dairy farmer, said Tuesday he was leaning yes.

Get smart: Pros can read the full rundown on the farm bill whip count from Helena and Liz here. Pour yourself another cup of coffee, folks, we could be in for quite a day.

HAPPY THURSDAY, JUNE 21! Welcome to Morning Ag, where your host is getting some farm envy looking at the real estate listing for Muhammad Ali’s Michigan farm and how the listing price pays tribute to his 37 career knockouts ($2,895,037). Send your news tips to [email protected] or @chaughney. Follow the whole team: @Morning_Ag.

WHITE HOUSE PLAN TO MOVE SNAP TO HHS COMING SOON: A White House plan to reorganize the federal government is expected to be out as early as today, POLITICO’s Lorraine Woellert and Helena scooped on Wednesday.

The proposal will recommend renaming the agency now called Health and Human Services to the Department of Health and Public Welfare. As POLITICO reported earlier this month, it will also call for moving the $70 billion Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program from USDA to the reorganized agency, according to two people with knowledge of the plan.

Reality check: Moving the food stamp program from USDA to HHS — an idea that's not likely to get traction in Congress—would be a huge blow to USDA's reach and budget. SNAP represents roughly three quarters of its budget.

"I’ll need to see the logic": Conaway said late Wednesday he would keep an open mind when reading the White House reorganization report, but he's not wild about making HHS, which already oversees some $1 trillion in spending, even bigger.

“I’ll need to see the logic behind why it makes sense to make an even larger agency out of one that’s got its issues already," he said. “My normal bias is that making monster agencies even bigger is maybe not the best thing to do,"

Brush up on the latest here. Also see POLITICO’s larger story from two weeks ago here.

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