This is presenting McCarthy with one of his greatest legislative tests: fending off yet another uprising from the right flank of his caucus by securing the bipartisan support that will be needed to pass legislation to pass. At the rate it’s going, Congress may have to resort to extending the agricultural bill’s current entitlements as programs begin to expire this fall — a practical and political headache for the agricultural sector and state Republicans as they prepare for the elections. 2024 election.
It’s not just moderate Republicans who are sounding alarms about the potential fallout if the GOP-led House fails to pass a farm bill this year.
« I no longer have much faith that anything will pass in the House in the current environment, » said Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.).
DesJarlais, one of the few Republicans who serves on both the Freedom Caucus and the Agriculture Committee, said he plans to reach out to as many far-right members as he can to pass an agriculture bill with minimal delays. But he noted « there are some members … that I don’t think anyone can change their views. »
The notoriously complex farm bill reauthorization process, by design, requires bipartisan compromises similar to those that infuriated conservative Republicans during the debt limit negotiations. GOP aides are already assuming that a swath of far-right Republicans won’t vote for the agriculture bill, and they’ll need at least four to five dozen Democratic votes to pass it in the tightly divided House.
But after hammering out the deal with the White House and trying to defuse the Freedom Caucus rebellion in the House last week, McCarthy signaled it will likely be politically necessary to offer some concessions to the far right on the farm account. In addition to more cuts to SNAP, GOP hardliners are targeting some of the agricultural safety net programs that are a third rail to the agricultural sector.
A House Republican, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss domestic issues, said any concessions from McCarthy to GOP House hardliners on the farm bill would be « a really dangerous pivot to pull out of the grenade, » given the swift and bitter backlash would be fueled by the rest of the caucus.
The homestead bill came up only in passing during McCarthy’s meeting with leaders of the so-called « Five Families » GOP caucus factions earlier this week, as one of several pieces of legislation Republicans need to see through. this fall, according to two House Republicans who were granted anonymity to discuss private conversations.
House Agriculture Committee staffers have begun compiling a draft of the 2023 agriculture bill as the jury scrambles to complete a series of hearings on the agriculture bill. Negotiations on the text are expected to intensify later this month, with aides and lawmakers pushing for a commission markup by early September. The legislation approved by the House will have to be reconciled with that approved by the Senate. According to the Senate Agriculture Chairman and Democrat No Debbie Stabennow of Michigan, Congress « finished » the discussion on SNAP work requirements in the wake of the debt limit talks.
Many lawmakers are starting to worry that, given the current trajectory, the reauthorization process could drag into 2024, which would put further pressure on an already reeling US agriculture sector from high inflation and, in turn, become a headache. Political lead for lawmakers in heavy districts and states ahead of the 2024 election. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell he recently stepped in to warn that « time is running out » to pass an agricultural bill this year.
McCarthy has experienced a similar scenario for the farm bill in the past. He was the Republican No. 2 in the House in 2018, when members of the Freedom Caucus helped sink a partisan House GOP bill to the floor. It took Congress another seven months to get the final bill to then-President Donald Trump’s desk, all the while giving Democrats the ammunition to go after rural District Republicans. The Republican-majority Senate eventually removed steep House GOP SNAP restrictions from the final legislation, despite months of hard work by McCarthy and then-President Paul Ryan.
This time, congressional leaders are facing an even bigger time crunch and far-right Republicans are taking an even tougher line, arguing that McCarthy and other GOP leaders have « watered down » the new SNAP job requirements in their deal to increase the debt limit. Though he hails from an agricultural district in California’s Central Valley, McCarthy isn’t much involved, personally, in the farm policy talks yet.
Privately, however, the speaker told fellow Republicans that to appease extremists, the party will at least need to push for tougher labor requirements and other restrictions on federal food assistance for low-income Americans beyond provisions in the accord. on the debt, according to three other GOP lawmakers who were granted anonymity to discuss domestic issues.
“I think what the Speaker is saying is let’s not let that be the end of the conversation. Let’s have a good conversation, a bipartisan conversation about how we can have the highest integrity and serve the most people with the dollars we have, » said Rep. Brad Finstad (R-Minn.), chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee that oversees the country’s main anti-hunger program.
Many moderate House Republicans, however, have stopped having that conversation for now, especially those who handed their party a House majority in 2020 by flipping districts Biden won over Trump. Democrats are already attacking many of those vulnerable Republicans for their support for the debt deal and the new SNAP restrictions it contains.
« We’ve negotiated a new level of requirements on SNAP and I think it’s time to move forward from there, » said Rep. John Duarte (R-Calif.), which represents an agriculturally rich region of California that Biden drove into double digits in 2020.
Republic of Nebraska Don Baconanother Republican in a Biden district, warned that pushing for SNAP restrictions beyond what Biden and McCarthy have agreed on in the debt limit bill would threaten the viability of the entire farm bill.
« You can’t just have a deal and then say we’re going to change it, » Bacon said. “Eventually, if we get a bipartisan bill, you’ll have enough Democrats on board where [opposition from some far-right House Republicans] It will not be a problem. »
« I think that’s the goal, » Bacon added. We don’t want this to be a biased bill. »
Some of the more centrist House Democrats McCarthy will need to vote for the agriculture bill have also publicly warned him against trying to include more restrictions on SNAP in the agriculture bill.
« SNAP is certainly one of the best tools we have for reducing poverty, » said Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-Wash.) during a recent hearing, who noted that rural communities like his are more likely to be enrolled in the program than their urban counterparts.
Like Bacon, Rep. Bishop of Sanforda moderate Democrat representing a rural stretch of Georgia, warned that further GOP efforts to reduce nutrition spending in the agriculture bill threaten the future of the entire legislation, which includes major agricultural safety net programs under Democrats and moderate Republicans need in their districts.
« It’s inextricably linked together, » Bishop said.