GOP leader schedules farm bill vote

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Friday afternoon that he expects the House to vote on a five-year farm bill next week.

The announcement came after a whip count of members was strong enough to give the bill a good shot at passage. A well-placed source said the bill's sponsors were within 10 votes of the 218 needed.

"Chairman Frank Lucas and members of the Agriculture Committee have all worked very hard to produce a five-year farm bill with strong reforms, and I look forward to a full debate on the floor," Cantor said.

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The scheduling of a vote comes after weeks of uncertainty as to whether Republican opposition to the costly bill would keep it off the floor. 

Before Cantor made his announcement, supporters of the farm bill feared that it would be pulled from the schedule altogether or delayed until enough votes could be found.

Most Democrats are expected to vote against the bill, which cuts food stamps by $20.5 billion, and a number of conservative groups are fighting it as well. But Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said this week he would vote for the legislation, giving it a boost. 

Boehner argued that defeating the $940 billion measure, which cuts $40 billion from anticipated spending, would squander a chance to enact changes to the food stamp program.

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) asked Cantor on Friday to allow broad debate on the bill, as many Democrats are worried about the GOP bill's cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly called food stamps. Cantor did not make any specific commitment, but said he believes an open debate will be allowed.

"I do think there's a commitment to genuine and robust debate on all sides, and that would hopefully and without speaking to details ... would include all subject matter of the bill," he said.

Amendments are due to the Rules Committee by 2 p.m. Monday.

The bill up next week is H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act.

Cantor also said the House would consider H.R. 1797, Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This bill would ban abortions throughout the nation after 22 weeks of pregnancy, and here again, Hoyer asked Cantor to allow debate and amendments.

Cantor also added that the House Rules Committee is considering changes to the bill, based on "input" from other members. But he did not say how the committee might alter the legislation.