The demise of the farm bill on the House floor today caught nearly everyone off-guard, but it's the House Republican leaders who look like chumps. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) have consistently struggled to lead effectively, but today was an especially ignominious failure -- they had no idea their bill couldn't pass.
But don't worry; the Republican leaders (I use the word loosely) know just who to blame.
"The question is: are Democrats in the House willing to govern, and today's demonstration proves that that might not be the case," Rory Cooper, the communications director for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., told reporters.
Look, I don't mean to belabor the point, but the first step towards recovery is admitting you have a problem. About a third of the House Republican caucus broke ranks today and voted to kill their own caucus' farm bill. Some did so for ideological reasons (they wanted deeper cuts), some were motived by regional concerns (the agricultural industry in their areas would be adversely affected).
The bottom line was a clear defeat -- the House farm bill garnered 195 votes, 23 short of what was needed for passage.
Cantor's office is right to feel embarrassed, but it's time GOP leaders at least considered taking responsibility. It is, after all, what holding "leadership" positions is all about.
Cantor doesn't have to like Democrats or their agenda, but blaming their willingness to govern for today's outcome is ridiculous. Of course House Dems voted against this bill in droves -- it was a cruel piece of work, slashing investments in food stamps to a degree that even seemed extreme for today's GOP. Why blame the House minority for the demise of a bill backed by the House majority's leadership? For that matter, why would a Majority Leader with zero accomplishments in three years bring a willingness to govern in the first place?
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was amazed by the Republicans' disarray this afternoon, telling reporter s, "It's silly. It's sad. It's juvenile. It's unprofessional. It's amateur hour."
One thing is for sure: we didn't see embarrassments like today's when Pelosi was carrying the gavel. Cantor should probably stop blaming her and start taking notes on how she ran the chamber so effectively.