skip to Main Content

In Divided House, “Fractiousness Could Threaten Some Significant Bills,” Including the Farm Bill

Nolan D. McCaskill reported on the front page of Saturday’s Los Angeles Times that, “Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) was elected speaker of the House early Saturday morning after four days and 15 ballots, resuscitating a chamber that had been paralyzed as it endured its longest struggle to elect a leader since before the Civil War.”

Los Angeles Times (Front Page – January 7, 2023).

However, New York Times writer Annie Karni reported on the front page of Saturday’s paper that, “The speakership struggle that crippled the House before it had even opened its session suggested that basic tasks such as passing government funding bills or financing the federal debt would prompt epic struggles over the next two years.”

Luke Broadwater, also writing in Saturday’s Times, reported that, “Representative Kevin McCarthy’s historically long slog to become speaker of the House has made one thing abundantly clear: The United States should brace for the likelihood of a Congress in perpetual disarray for the next two years.”

The New York Times (Front Page – January 7, 2023).

Wall Street Journal writers Lindsay Wise, Andrew Duehren and Kristina Peterson reported in Saturday’s paper that, “Hanging in the balance is the ability of the U.S. government to stay open and pay its debts. Many of Mr. McCarthy’s initial foes are adamantly opposed to raising the debt ceiling or cutting spending deals with Democrats, and could move to oust him from his job if he tries to do so.

“Also at risk are other high-profile measures that would require agreement between House Republicans and the Democrats who control the Senate and White House: funding the Pentagon and other agencies, sending aid to Ukraine as it battles an invasion and approving food stamps for low-income people as part of the farm bill, which is typically reauthorized every five years.

Wise, Duehren and Peterson pointed out that,

One place where Republican fissures were already expected to hand Democrats some leverage is the next farm bill, the cornerstone of U.S. food and agriculture policy, which expires at the end of September.

“Although the measure is a priority for many rural GOP districts, Republicans have previously split over its spending on food stamps, as well as for some programs supporting U.S. farmers growing certain commodities. Versions of the farm bill initially failed on the House floor both in 2013, in a fight over food stamps, and in 2018, when conservatives tried to flex their leverage over the farm bill as part of a separate battle over immigration.

“Incoming House Agriculture Committee Chairman G.T. Thompson (R., Pa.) said the leadership fight wouldn’t change the inevitable calculus that the farm bill will need to be bipartisan to both pass the House and become law. The last time a bipartisan farm bill passed, in December 2018, it was opposed by 44 House Republicans and three Democrats.”

The Journal writers explained that, “One possibility is that Congress ends up passing a short-term extension of either the farm bill or government funding. That would enable lawmakers to prevent a funding gap but wouldn’t allow them to tailor the legislation to meet new policy goals.

“While many House Republicans were mortified by this week’s drama surrounding the speaker race, they rejected the idea that it was a preview of dysfunction to come under the House GOP majority.”

Keith Good Photo

Keith Good is the Farm Policy News editor for the farmdoc project. He has previously worked for the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, and compiled the daily News Summary from 2003-2015. He is a graduate of Purdue University (M.S.- Agricultural Economics), and Southern Illinois University School of Law.

Back To Top