House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi took to the House floor shortly before the vote on McGovern’s amendment and urged Democrats to vote for it, which all but eight of them did. In an interview with The Nation in her Capitol office shortly after the vote, an exasperated Pelosi said the food stamp cuts could now endanger the entire farm bill.
“I don’t know if this is even going to pass,” she said. “I don’t know what the Republicans have in votes, but they better have a lot.”
Here’s the problem: as it stands now, many Democrats, like McGovern, have said they simply won’t vote for a farm bill with $20.5 billion in cuts, calling them a “poison pill.”
There are some Democrats who will: thirteen Democrats on the agriculture committee, many from rural areas that badly want a farm bill to be passed, voted for the version of the farm bill with those cuts.
But Pelosi predicted that only “somewhere between two and three times” that many Democrats would vote for the final farm bill with that level of food stamp cuts, meaning that House Speaker John Boehner would have to get a majority of his caucus to vote yes on the farm bill for it to pass.
And many conservatives are deeply unhappy with the legislation, in large part because they feel it doesn’t cut enough from food stamps. Boehner may not be able to get a majority of them to vote yes. And if, in order to win their votes, Boehner allows even deeper food stamp cuts, then Pelosi said it’s possible no Democrats would vote yes.
“If they change it on the floor, then all bets are off. It’s not even—I don’t think they can get Collin [Peterson, the ranking member on the agriculture committee who supports the food stamp cuts], depending on where they go with it,” she said. “If they have any adult supervision over there, somebody will say, ’If we go this far, increase these cuts, we better have all the votes that are necessary.‘ ”
Has there ever been a worse Speaker of the House with less control of his caucus than John Boehner?