Feb. 10, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

GOP May Cross the Aisle for Aid Again

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
House Chief Deputy Minority Whip Joe Crowley said Democrats have yet to decide their stance on the extension of the farm bill, which Republicans may need help to pass.

The trouble for Republicans is that many of their Members refuse to vote for the measure because they think leadership wants to bring the measure into conference, like they did with the transportation reauthorization bill, and produce a final measure heavily skewed toward the Senate-passed version. Others prefer to vote on the committee-passed bill, though Lucas has given his support to the temporary extension.

Republicans face heavy pressure from conservative groups such as Heritage Action for America and the Club for Growth, whose president, Chris Chocola, released a statement Monday calling on GOP leaders to promise they will not conference the extension.

GOP leadership aides said the bill is not meant to be a means to conference. But doing so would achieve the GOP leaders’ short-term political goal of avoiding a vitriolic floor fight with their own Members about sensitive issues such as food stamps less than 100 days before the elections.

They will put that off for the time being, as the Rules Committee plans to vote this evening on a closed rule on the farm bill extension, according to a GOP aide. That would shut out conservatives who want to cut more funding from food stamps.

Still, if indeed the short-term bill is not meant to be conferenced, some Republican members of the Agriculture Committee do not know it yet. Reps. Steve King (Iowa) and Bob Gibbs (Ohio), both of whom supported the committee bill and represent drought-ravaged and agriculture-heavy states, told local news outlets that they think the extension will be used to hash out a final deal with the Senate.

Gibbs, a freshman, told the Ohio Farm Bureau Radio News Service that he would support the tactic, while King told Agri-Pulse Communications in a recorded interview that doing so would weaken the House’s position.

Still, if there is anything working in the GOP’s favor in terms of passing this bill, it is the severity of the drought. Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) told reporters in a conference call Monday that although he’s undecided on the short-term extension, “clearly when it comes to disaster relief, some action has to be taken.”

Rep. Marcy Kaptur echoed that sentiment on a separate conference call, though she said she has yet to review the specifics of the bill.

“If it’s basically current law extended for a year, I would have to say it’s better than nothing, and I would likely vote for it,” the Ohio Democrat said. “I’m probably leaning for something because we know we’re going to need crop insurance out here.”

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