A day after House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., questioned whether GOP leadership would bring a controversial farm bill to the House floor following the Senate's Monday night passage, Speaker John A. Boehner signaled he would support his chamber's version.
"I've got concerns about the farm bill, as I told our members, but doing nothing means we get no changes in the farm program, no changes in the nutrition program, and as a result I'm going to vote for the farm bill to make sure that the good work of the Agriculture Committee, whatever the floor might do to improve this bill, gets to conference so we can make the kind of changes that people want," the Ohio Republican told reporters this morning.
It's rare for a speaker to cast a vote on legislation, and even rarer for this speaker, who acknowledged earlier this week that he has not traditionally supported farm programs contained in the farm bill.
But perhaps more than anything, his pledge to vote for this year's farm bill suggests his recognition that his vote could be pivotal, as the legislation emerging from the House Agriculture Committee is likely to draw rancor from nearly all Democrats and likely a large portion of the Republican rank and file.
Boehner said in a statement earlier this week that he had concerns over dairy provisions included in the farm bill coming out of the House Agriculture Committee, but the real source of contention could come down to proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.
While the Senate bill would cut $4 billion from SNAP over a decade, the House's bill would currently slice $20.5 billion — a number many House Democrats reject as too much and some House Republicans say is not enough. The food stamp cuts have been ripped by first lady Michelle Obama lately in her speeches at Democratic Party fundraisers.