GOP farm bill rebels not swayed by subsidies

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Even hundreds of millions of dollars in agriculture subsidies could not stop 62 Republicans from revolting against House leadership and defeating the farm bill.

One of the rebels, Kansas Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp, represents Kansas’ First District — the second largest recipient of farm subsidies in the country.

“I’ve been very clear with my constituents. We’ve got to do our share to balance the budget,” Huelskamp told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an interview. “The biggest issue is the 80 percent, or 79.3 percent, of the farm bill that is food stamps.”

Huelskamp’s district received more than $309 million in subsidies from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2012, according to the Environmental Working Group.

Food stamp spending has been a major sticking point for many Republicans who see the program as out of control. The farm bill would cost taxpayers near $1 trillion, with nearly 80 percent of the $955 billion bill goes towards food stamp spending.

A record-breaking 23,116,441 households were enrolled in food stamps, according to USDA numbers from March, with each household getting an average of $274.30 per month.

However, some congressmen said they prioritized concerns over the country’s dire fiscal situation over defending subsidies.

“I know one farmer stood up and said, ‘Hey, you’ve got to defend our subsidies.’ … Well, I understand, but I also have to defend the future for the entire country,” Huelskamp told TheDC News Foundation.

“Most folks recognize in my district that the food stamps and the farm programs need to do a better job with less money in those programs,” Huelskamp added.

More interestingly, Republicans whose districts stood to get the least in USDA subsidies voted in favor of the bill, siding with party leadership.

For example, California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa voted for the farm bill even though his district is ranked 367th in terms of subsidies received by the USDA — getting less than $4,000 in subsidies in 2012.

California Republican Rep. Buck McKeon’s district only got about $112,000 in USDA subsidies in 2012, but he voted in favor of the bill.

Issa’s office did not respond to TheDC News Foundation’s request for comment.

Party leadership came out in support of the bill, despite criticisms that it devoted too much funding to food stamps, and expressed confidence that they had the votes to pass the bill.

When the bill failed, GOP leaders were quick to blame the Democrats, who supplied only 24 votes in favor.

“This was a vote to go to conference, and [Democrats] chose … instead to put politics behind years of bipartisan support,” a spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told Roll Call. “Unfortunately, Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leadership decided that politics was more important than going to conference and getting things done.”

The farm bill would have stopped direct payments to farmers, including those who are not actively farming. The bill would have also slashed disaster aid and reformed certain crop insurance programs.

Amendments concerning farm subsidies, sugar pricing and food stamp program cuts were all defeated, with members voting largely along party lines.

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