Split farm bill lacks House votes

A plan backed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and other House GOP leaders to split the farm bill into two pieces is facing a setback. 

A split farm bill was anticipated to come before the Rules Committee as early as Wednesday, but there is now no sign that this is happening. 

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A House GOP whip count on Tuesday on a farm subsidy bill without food stamp funding came up short of the 218 votes needed for passage, sources said. However, a GOP aide said the official count was still taking place and no final decision on a vote has been made.

The idea was first pushed by Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) who tried and failed to propose an amendment to split the original bill. 

The idea has been supported by conservatives but key groups like Heritage Action and Club for Growth said this week that they would oppose a split farm bill unless it had deeper cuts to farm subsidies. 

"The Club for Growth strongly opposes the 'Farm-Only' bill and urges all House members to oppose it," Club for Growth's Andy Roth said in a letter to members this week.

Their opposition appears to have hampered the ability of GOP leaders to sway the 62 Republicans who helped sink the unified farm bill on a 195-234 vote last month.

"Unfortunately, this is nothing more than a naked attempt to get to a conference committee with the Senate. The end result of such a conference would be a perpetuation of subsidies and government intervention that will continue to harm consumers and taxpayers alike," Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham said in a statement on Tuesday.

Liberals on Tuesday said they too oppose splitting the bipartisan coalition that has ensured farm bills and food stamps pass just about every five years.

"This unacceptable and unprecedented plan by House Republicans to split this bill into two parts jeopardizes the rural-urban connection in the farm bill and puts critical food assistance for our children, seniors and military families at risk of even more draconian cuts in the House," Senate Agriculture Committee member Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. 

Last week 532 farm groups wrote to Congress urging members not to split the farm bill. 

Sources emphasize that Cantor and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) want to find a way to get a farm bill done before the existing bill expires on Sept. 30. Both leaders voted for the failed bill, which cuts nearly $40 billion from the deficit over 10 years, including $20.5 billion from food stamps. 

The food stamp program would continue without cuts if Congress fails to act by the fall. 

This story was updated at 1:31 p.m.