Senate passes farm bill, as 16 Republicans vote with Democrats

The Senate passed the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 on Thursday.

The vote was 64-35.

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Forty-six Democrats and 16 Republicans voted for the bill. Both Independents who caucus with the Democrats, Sens. Joe Lieberman (Conn.) and Bernie Sanders (Vt.), voted for it.

Thirty Republicans voted against the measure. Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jack Reed (R.I.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) voted against it.

The  bill funds agriculture, farm and nutrition programs over the next five years. It is projected to spend $969 billion over ten years. 

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), one of the co-sponsors of the bill along with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), praised the amended version just ahead of the vote. He also highlighted the legislation's $23 billion in deficit reduction.

"This is a good bill. Is it the best possible bill? No. It is the best bill possible," Roberts said. "And we should move, and we should vote for it, and I urge you to vote for it."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he hoped the GOP-controlled House would pass the Senate farm bill quickly.

"I've managed quite a few bills in my day — this is a difficult, difficult bill to have in the position we have it in now. I hope that our friends in the House see what we have done. We're working together; I know that they can," Reid said.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) said he hoped members in the House were encouraged by the farm bill's passage.

"Although there will be differences between the Senate approach and our own, I hope my colleagues are encouraged by this success when we meet on the 11th to consider our own legislation," Lucas said in a statement. "The House Agriculture Committee will consider a balanced proposal that saves taxpayers billions of dollars, recognizes the diversity of American agriculture, respects the risks producers face, and preserves the tools necessary for food production."

Reid also praised Roberts's and Stabenow's work on the bill.

"I cannot say enough, although I will try, to applaud and compliment Sen. Stabenow and Sen. Roberts. They're both my friends, but my view of them has risen appreciably in their legislative methods of getting this done," Reid said. "They have done this on their own. [Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)] and I have done what we can, but we've been bystanders to much of what's gone on. It's been the work of these two fine senators and the cooperation of every member."

The vote on the bill (S.3240) came immediately after the chamber finished a two-day marathon on consideration of 73 amendments to it. The farm bill's passage seemed all but certain after party leaders announced a deal on amendments. Recent legislation has made it through the chamber only after an agreement over how many and which amendments to the bill should be considered. On the farm bill, legislators submitted hundreds of amendments, some of them not directly related to food, agriculture or farming.

The Senate now moves on a cloture vote on a national flood insurance bill (S. 1940).