By Molly K. Hooper and Erik Wasson - 06/12/13 02:36 PM EDT
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Wednesday that he will vote for the House farm bill despite having some "concerns" about legislation that is heading for floor action this week.
The Senate passed its version of the farm bill on Monday.
Boehner is facing a divided conference as he tries to manage the farm bill fight and the issue represents one of his biggest challenges since the fiscal-cliff battle. The farm bill has been such a thorny issue that leaders never brought it to the floor in 2012.
Sources told the Hill on Tuesday that the farm bill was in danger of failing on the floor given Boehner's earlier perceived opposition.
Rural Republicans want to see the five-year farm subsidy measure enacted.
But Boehner and the GOP leadership is under pressure from fiscal conservatives to make deeper cuts to food stamps and payments to producers.
Asked about the Boehner remarks, the conservative Club for Growth noted that it will likely punish members voting for the bill in its annual scorecard.
“The Club for Growth opposes the House farm bill and will likely include a vote on the bill in our 2013 Congressional Scorecard," spokesman Barney Keller said.
A top farm lobbyist said that Boehner's announcement will shield him from blame if the farm bill fails and could shift some Republican votes, but the bill still is not ensured of passing.
A more solid whip count is expected later on Wednesday and the Democratic numbers are very low, possibly as few as 30, the lobbyist said. That would require a huge number of Republican votes in the face of Heritage and Club for Growth pressure.
Many Democrats say the $20.5 billion in food stamp cuts included in the bill are already too deep, so the minority is not seen as being able to carry the bill.
The conservative group Heritage Action condemned Boehner's announcement.
“Republicans retained control of the House to serve as a check on President Obama’s disastrous policies. Advancing a nearly one trillion dollar food stamp and farm bill ignores that mandate. Now is not the time to be locking in the President’s failed stimulus policies," the group stated.
Supporters of the farm bill note that the House bill cuts some $40 billion from projected spending. If the bill fails, current programs will continue on autopilot without the cuts.
This story was last updated at 11:09 a.m. and 11:50 a.m.