Democratic and Republican aides signaled Tuesday evening that final passage of the farm bill could be delayed until next week, as the House Rules Committee sifts through more than 200 amendments and leadership on both sides of the aisle wonder whether there are even enough votes to pass it.
"Sounds like [Republicans] are having trouble rounding up votes and need more time to try to get them," one Democratic leadership aide said.
A Republican leadership aide, meanwhile, attributed the holdup to the sheer volume of amendments.
"We're reviewing the amount of amendments and how much time it will take to debate," the GOP aide said.
In reality, which amendments are made in order to the farm bill and how many votes the bill will receive are related — a point Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., made earlier Tuesday. Where members will fall in their support or opposition to the farm bill could depend on which amendments are made in order, particularly for Democrats, who reject the $20.5 billion cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, but would feel better about voting for the measure if they have a chance to vote on an amendment sought by Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., that would make those cuts less onerous.
At the same time, many Republicans don't think the cuts go far enough and say they will vote for the bill if only to bring the measure to conference. The Senate passed its iteration of the farm bill last week with a $4 billion cut to SNAP.
Conservative advocacy groups are urging "no" votes against the bill, running ads in 15 congressional districts including Boehner's. On Tuesday afternoon, Kansas Republican Tim Huelskamp said he did not believe the GOP had the necessary number of votes to pass the farm bill without a sizable Democratic faction on board. Huelskamp said he planned to vote against the bill, despite coming from an agriculture-heavy region.
Coming out for or against the bill has also been complicated by Monday's farm bill veto threat by the Obama administration. Republicans who want to vote against the bill could find themselves in a rare position of siding with the president, while Democrats who vote for the bill to send it to a conference committee would be parting ways with the White House.
The Rules Committee is meeting Tuesday night to pick which amendments will be considered on the House floor when debate begins Wednesday.