A sprawling and subsidy-packed farm bill failed in the House on Friday, in a dramatic defeat for GOP leaders who faced an uprising from conservatives over inaction on immigration.
The farm bill, which was voted down 213-198, had been hanging in the balance as the conservative House Freedom Caucus threatened to withhold support without an agreement on an immigration bill vote.
The GOP leadership, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., were seen in intense discussions with the conservative lawmakers in the minutes before the vote.
At least 30 Republicans voted against the bill, while all Democratis opposed it — enough to doom the legislation.
Before the farm bill failed, the freedom caucus had called for a vote on a conservative bill that would boost border security and support the construction of a wall, among other changes. GOP leaders had offered for the House to consider the measure in June in exchange for support on the farm package, a deal the conservatives rejected.
A spokesman for Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-NC., said Friday he opposed the bill because not enough progress has been made toward a solution on immigration. The spokesman added Meadows look forward to continuing discussions in the coming days.
“We want to make sure we get the right thing done on immigration,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, told “Fox News @ Night.”
Leadership has been hearing grief in stereo from both conservatives and moderates – who are insisting the House address protections for “DACA” recipients, young illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. President Trump stripped those protections, calling on Congress to act. But the matter has been held up in court, and some moderate Republicans are trying to light a fire under House leadership to deal with the issue sooner rather than later.
All this came as Congress worked to engineer a passable farm bill, a twice-a-decade effort that often turns into an epic balancing act to address the wishes of farm-state Republicans and Democrats supporting food stamps.
On top of the complicating factor of the immigration fight, the House on Thursday dealt with an effort to crack down on the government’s controversial sugar subsidy program. In a decisive 278-137 vote, the House rejected a bid by Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., to significantly weaken the program and invite more foreign competition.
But GOP leaders are also pushing to tighten work and job training requirements for food stamps, as part of the bill. That means Republicans had to pass the measure with minimal defections, and it puts pressure on Republicans who have criticized costly farm subsidies in the past.
This situation has, in turn, given the House Freedom Caucus leverage to make their immigration demands.
Before the vote, Meadows said “the time is now” to deal with immigration and that the farm bill doesn’t face a pressing deadline. He said farmers “want us to deal with immigration and the farm bill both.”
Meadows and other Freedom Caucus members met with House leaders into the evening Thursday to try to resolve their disputes.
The uprising is also a symptom of the shaky leadership situation, with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., retiring. The balancing act is a test for his potential replacement candidates, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La.
Ryan had tried to separate the farm bill from immigration issues, but so far has not been able to do so.
Meanwhile, President Trump prodded lawmakers to act with an overnight tweet saying that on Friday, “the House will vote on a strong Farm Bill, which includes work requirements. We must support our Nation’s great farmers!”
Fox News’ Mike Emanuel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.