Just today, House of Representatives Republican Minority Leader John Boehner announced that the House Republican Leadership would oppose the 2007 Farm Bill passed by the House Agriculture Committee last Thursday. From the Republican Leader's e-alert:
In a sneak attack on American working families, House Democratic leaders have revealed they will pay for new spending in the 2007 farm bill by imposing a new tax increase that threatens more than 5 million American jobs. The Democratic tax hike scheme was kept secret from House Republicans and the media during weeks of committee deliberation on the 2007 farm bill, which is scheduled for a vote on the House floor tomorrow.
Rep. Jim McCrery (R-LA), the ranking Republican member of the Ways & Means Committee:
“This proposal will raise taxes on many businesses operating in the United States. It will hurt our competitiveness and our standing in the world by carelessly violating a host of treaties. It is bad policy and bad politics. Democrats are trying to sneak a far-reaching and potentially destructive proposal through the House without proper consideration. Any fair-minded person who cares about the U.S. economy will oppose this bill.”
This is big, big news. The Democrats are facing a serious fight within their own party over the farm bill, and by no means will Democrats vote unanimously for the bill. The Democratic leadership will certainly require Republican votes to pass a farm bill, perhaps a fairly substantial number of them. If the Republican leadership actively tells its members not to vote for the Agriculture Committee's farm bill, it will be difficult for a farm bill to pass. The type of amendments offered and approved on the floor could easily affect those votes, and this development alters the politics of the floor process. In fact, there is already speculation that the floor process, scheduled for tomorrow, will be postponed to deal with this.
As you may remember, the House Agriculture Committee unanimously voted to pass this farm bill- both Democrats and Republicans. Interestingly, the first paragraph of the alert specifically says "The Democratic tax hike scheme was kept secret from House Republicans". This gives the Republicans on the committee who voted for the farm bill the cover they need to turn around and say they won't vote for it on the floor. No Republican on the committee has said that publicly yet, but keep your eyes peeled.
I have the e-alert, but they have not placed it on the web yet, so I don't have a web link. Here's a link to a Congressional Quarterly article that provides more details.
UPDATE: Here is the link to the official release from the House Republican Leadership's website.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, the top Republican on the House Agriculture Committee, said GOP members of the committee felt "betrayed" by that plan. He said they would vote against the farm bill if it included the tax proposal.
GOP officials said their rank and file including those from rural states that would benefit from the farm bill were reluctant to support what they viewed as a massive business tax increase.
The overall bill would either leave in place or increase subsidies for major crops. Some Democrats are uneasy about the bill and defections among Republicans could doom it...
Over at Mulch, Ken Cook has some inside information:
Ranking Republican (and former chairman) of the House Agriculture Commitee, Robert Goodlatte of Virgina, testified before the House Rules Committee that he opposes the bill, and is requesting an "open rule" which would allow hundreds of Republican amendments to be offered, debated and voted upon.
We understand now that the Republican leadership is asking that the bill be pulled. Republicans are arguing that the proposed mechanism for providing the additional $4 billion for the farm bill from the Ways and Means Committee is a tax increase.
We've also heard that because of technical budget scoring issues, Ways and Means is finding only $3.2 billion of the $4 billion that Speaker Pelosi told that committee's chairman, Charlie Rangel, to provide.
Mulch has additional posts on the unfolding drama worth reading. Check them out.